Monday, September 16, 2013

Recipe #1: Gluten Free Parmesan Almond Chicken Nuggets

   I promise the recipe for gluten free chicken nuggets is at the bottom of this really is.  And I can go ahead and tell you that this recipe is 100% hubby approved...which is quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself. But before you give up at reading another one of my ridiculously long blog posts, I have to explain why it is that you might even be interested in trying something like gluten-free chicken nuggets. I mean, what's wrong with regular chicken nuggets after all??  Well, it all started with the word "paleo."
    Now, just FYI, it would be an understatement to say that I like to discover and experiment with various ways of eating.  I've tried lots of different diets and/or eating plans.  I think it's the inner researcher in me that motivates me to try new things and compare and contrast results...and the fact that I hate exercising.  I figure if I don't really like to exercise then the only way I can change my health is by the way I eat, which, I personally think is at least 80% of the equation anyway. What you put in your body has to affect what you get out of your body, right?
     Well, one day I was talking with my sister and she mentioned trying the Paleo diet.  I had never heard of Paleo, and I thought it sounded weird.  So I did what any modern girl does when she doesn't know something...I Googled it! (I'm not going to explain the whole school of thought behind it or I'll be here all day, so you can Google it too...but in a nutshell, it's basically it's a high protein, gluten free, dairy-free diet with lots of nuts, berries, and non-starchy vegetables).  Apparently, it was a pretty big thing and something that lots of people are pretty passionate about. The ideas behind it made sense, so I tried it!  I did the Paleo thing for about 2 months and lost about 8-10 lbs. I felt great and had a super flat stomach, but it was hard to keep up with the whole no-dairy thing. I was 100% on board, but giving up milk and yogurt was too hard!  I still think it is a great lifestyle, though, and I admire people who do it.
     More recently, though, I have been very intrigued about all the research surrounding specifically wheat and gluten and how toxic it really is to our bodies.  There is a fascinating amount of research that ties wheat/gluten/grain intake to things like increased weight gain, infertility, and a long list of other negative health effects.   There is even a cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, who wrote a book called "Wheat Belly," and he claims that wheat is the #1 food that is making Americans unhealthy and overweight.  Dr. Oz had him on his show and he highlighted the incredible research about modern wheat and how it is killing us.  Click the picture below to go to the video of Dr. Davis' interview on the Dr. Oz show.  It really is intriguing and worth watching if you're interested in this kind of thing.

   There are lots of people who are completely allergic to gluten who have a disease known as celiac.  Celiac only affects a small percentage of the population, but there are many people who just have gluten sensitivities, which can manifest themselves in the most unlikely ways.  Gluten sensitivities have been linked to a wide array of symptoms from gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation to fatigue, dizziness, migraines, unexplained infertility, and even anxiety, depression, and ADD!  It's kind of crazy to think about all of the people in the world who suffer from those symptoms that could possibly get better by just eliminating one ingredient from their diet.
    Now, while I am definitely not celiac, I do think I have a slight gluten sensitivity/intolerance because I literally look like I'm 5 months pregnant after I eat anything along the lines of bread, pizza, cupcakes, etc.  But my stomach stays decently flat (or as flat as one's stomach can be who doesn't exercise! ha) when I only eat protein and fruits/veggies.  So that tells me right there that my body definitely is reacting to what I'm eating.   So anyway, I have been trying to significantly limit my intake of gluten, and while I have not stuck to this 100% (I mean I have a bakery business on the side for goodness sake...I have to sample the cookie dough and cupcake batter sometimes, people), I'm working on making small changes where I can to better my health.
    So, for all of you who know anything about people who follow the Paleo lifestyle or people who eat gluten-free, you know that they have to work really hard to come up with tasty alternatives to the wheat/gluten laden foods that are rampant in our culture today.  If you are gluten-free or paleo, basically cereals, breads, pastas, crackers, cakes, cookies, or any breaded meat is off limits.  Even weird things like salad dressings and even tomato soup have wheat or gluten in them!!  I mean, it is everywhere! But I have to say, restaurants and grocery stores are getting better at offering gluten-free alternatives.  I recently discovered that Uno Chicago Grill has gluten free beer!  Who knew!?!
    However, as far as cooking at home goes, there is one ingredient that I have found to be a huge help in making delicious gluten-free food... and that is ALMOND FLOUR!   Flour from almonds?!  Yes, it's true. Two years ago, I didn't even know that existed.  The internet and blogs like Elana's Pantry and Everyday Paleo have opened up a whole new world of recipes for me.  As it turns out, you can have cookies, cakes, breads, and more if you are celiac or paleo... you just make them with almond flour! 

Now, if you have tried to find this wonderful ingredient around this area, it's not too easy to come by. Whole Foods...where are you?!  I can find it, but you have to look for it, and it's super expensive.  So I did what any bargain-
hunting gal does...I made my own!  One industrial sized bag of sliced almonds from Sam's and a Pampered Chef food chopper later......and I got a lovely pile of homemade almond flour.  It was a little more coarse than the kind you buy in the store, but I liked it that way, actually.  If you wanted to make it finer, you could do it in a food processor.
   And now.....the moment you've been waiting for...the recipe.  I know, I know, I'm long winded.....get used to it. :) I told you I would give you the recipe at the end of this post, didn't I? See...I'm honest.

3 chicken Breasts, skinless, rinsed, and patted dry.
2 eggs
2 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 cups of sliced almonds, grounded into course meal ( use a food chopper or food processor), or store bought almond flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (I used the "Mama Francesca" garlic Parmesan blend from Publix.)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Chop up your chicken breasts into chunks and set aside.

3. Whisk together the eggs and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl.   This is your first step of dredging. Set this aside.

4. In another large flat dish (like a baking pan or cake pan), mix together the dry ingredients (flour, parmesan, and seasonings).  This is your final step of dredge.

5. Take one chicken chunk at a time and dip into the egg mixture.  Then place the chicken chunk into the dry mixture and cover completely. Shake off the excess and then place on a baking sheet. (I used my Pampered Chef large bar pan and it worked beautifully!!) Continue until all the chicken nugget pieces are coated.  Make sure the pieces aren't touching each other and are spaced out.  They get crispier when they are spaced out more.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes.


 After....How beautiful and crispy are these!?!  Yummmmm..

 Happy cooking!!  - Beth

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