Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chicken Nuggets {Gluten-free}

When I first started changing my diet in 2011 after experiencing lots of not-so-fun (and surprising) reactions to foods I've always been able to eat just fine, I latched on to the diet lifestyle of the Weston A. Price Foundation. One of the diet changes they recommend is to not use packaged flour from grocery stores, even whole grain flours, as the flour goes rancid very quickly after the grains are ground and can (and does) cause inflammation in the body, leading to all sorts of lovely health problems.

Well, for awhile, I tried to use (ridiculously, prohibitively expensive) sprouted flour, and then I switched to soaking store-bought flour (like I do for my cereal), but I couldn't and still can't find a local source for grains from which to grind my own flour. I probably could find one, but I'm not willing to pay as much for grains as I do for things like grass-fed beef, raw milk, and other more nutrient dense foods.

Consequently, I decided to just stop eating so many grains. I went crazy and bought big box of Bob's Red Mill arrowroot starch on Amazon so I could start trying to use a grain-free substitute wherever I could. Arrowroot starch can replace corn starch as a thickener; a certain amount of flour in baking recipes; and, as in this recipe, it can be used as a coating for fried foods.

Needless to say, I have a lot of arrowroot starch to use up. I am also trying to get some food prepared ahead of time for the boys to eat after the baby is born (due date = 2 more weeks!), so I'm going to make lots of these nuggets and freeze them so daddy or the grandparents can just pop them (already cooked) into the oven and have a quick, easy lunch for the boys.

They're not the usual crispy chicken nugget -- they're more Chick-Fil-A style, with the soft coating. But they satisfied my 4-year-old's request for "REAL chicken nuggets" (yeah, like he knows what those are!), as opposed to the slightly soggy version I made last time for dinner. Kids.

       Gluten-free Chicken Nuggets
1/2 cup organic pastured lard* (NOT from a grocery store)
1-2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. arrowroot starch
1 T Real Salt seasoning salt (similar to Lowry's but made with sea salt)
1 tsp. italian seasoning (mine has oregano, basil, thyme, and garlic)
2 tsp. smoked paprika
pepper to taste (my boys don't like pepper so I didn't use any)

Cut chicken thighs into small pieces, about 1-2" big. Beat eggs in a bowl with a fork. Combine remaining ingredients in a second bowl.

Add lard to a large skillet and heat on medium to medium high. (You don't want to heat it past its smoking point of 375 degrees.) Dip each piece of chicken into the arrowroot mix first, then the egg, then the arrowroot mix again, and drop it into the pan.

After the chicken browns slightly on one side (it won't brown as much as a flour-coated nugget would), flip it over and cook the other side until also slightly browned. I think this took about 10-12 minutes total for me. Cook the coated chicken in batches until you've cooked it all. Don't crowd the pan if you want it crunchy.

My package of chicken thighs weighed 1.68 lbs., and I got enough nuggets for all of us to have dinner and for at least 2-3 lunches' worth for the boys to stick in the freezer.

These taste really good with homemade honey mustard: just mix honey and yellow mustard 'til it tastes right to you! I think they'd be good with a lemon pepper seasoning, too. Let me know if you try them!

*Why do I use lard? This is why! And this and this! I can hook you up with some fresh from the farm organic pastured lard if you live close to me...


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quick Energy Bars

Protein bars are kind of the cool, easy snack nowadays, but most of them contain a lot of things that we don't eat anymore. I like Lara Bars, but they're expensive, and the ingredient list is so simple, I figured making them at home would be easy. Well, how come they can get their walnuts and dates to stick into a nice bar, but my food processor version is sticky and very un-moldable?

Enter coconut oil.

There are many variations of this bar, but I just have to say - if you've never used dates to sweeten anything, you have to try it. You can make them into a paste (add a little water and put them in the food processor, after you've pitted them) to use as a sugar substitute in almost anything that has a moist texture (like fudgy brownies).

This recipe can be made with any nuts you like, with any added fruit. The only thing is to note is that since coconut oil melts at 76 degrees, remember to keep them in the refrigerator. They get squishy at a lower temperature.

Before chilling

I call them "energy" bars instead of "protein" bars because I don't think the protein level is high enough to count as protein bars, but the combination of nuts, coconut oil, and dates will definitely give you an energy boost! This makes about 5 bars, 1"x5", about 1/2" in thickness.

Quick Energy Bars  
1 cup crispy walnuts (or almonds, pecans, cashews)*
10 dates, pitted 
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil 
In a food processor, blend the nuts for a minute until they're pretty well chopped.
Add the dates and coconut oil, processing and scraping down the sides until they're well blended. You can leave it a little bit chunky or make it nice and smooth.
Scoop out the mixture into a small square dish (you'll want the mix to go about 1/2" up the side of the dish), cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours before cutting.
Warm up your knife before you cut them into bars or squares - it makes it much easier!

Somebody wanted a taste...
My favorite combination is walnuts, pecans, and cashews. I think they'd taste good with a few dried cherries in there, too, but I haven't tried that yet. By the way, my boys call this fudge. :o)

Let me know in the comments if you try them!

*Crispy nuts are raw nuts that are soaked in salty water and then dehydrated. Why do I do this?

 -- Christine