Month: June 2015

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

My kids love chicken nuggets. I love the convenience and peace that chicken nuggets bring to dinnertime…but I can’t buy the packaged nuggets regularly anymore. Even the ones that make you feel better about them- the “natural,” “breaded with whole grain” nuggets that seem so wholesome. (I do buy them on occasion- when we’re having a ton of kids over or if we’re going to my parents’ house, but I really try not to buy them otherwise.)

It kills me a little bit, though, that my kids LOVE the crappy processed chicken nuggets and snub the healthy homemade chicken nuggets that required a lot more effort and took a lot longer to make! I have tried many recipes, and I have lied many times. “What kind of chicken are we having?” “The regular kind, the ones we always have.” When they seem suspicious I say, “It’s the same kind, just a different brand.”

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So, I was excited when this recipe came out so good. My husband was impressed, I really liked them, surely the kids would gobble them up like they were straight from McDonald’s!

Well, not quite. But- they did eat some. And that’s progress. So I will hold on to this recipe, maybe tweak it a bit, and hope it becomes as loved as the store-bought ones. My plan is to make big batches of it, and freeze them. Then they would be just as convenient; put them straight from the freezer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

This recipe comes from Lisa Leake’s cookbook, 100 Days of Real Food. Her blog 100daysofrealfood was the first clean-eating website I found when I learned about the whole idea and I got the book for my birthday last year.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

(adapted from 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake)

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • olive oil

Preparation: Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan, paprika, and garlic in a shallow bowl. Put the egg in a separate bowl and beat lightly. Grease the baking pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Cut the chicken into nugget-sized pieces (or chicken finger-sized pieces) and season with salt and pepper. Dip into egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture. Place on greased baking pan and bake in 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes, turning halfway. (The original recipe calls for cooking them in oil on the stovetop, but I find baking them much easier. And less messy!)

I think this is the best healthy chicken nugget recipe I’ve tried. Hopefully as we get further away from the old chicken nuggets, these will be more appealing to my children. My oldest has seen and heard enough about fast food and processed foods that she is grossed out by most chicken nuggets. Maybe it’s just a matter of time for the other three, too!

 

 

Summer Crockpot Recipe

I love my crockpot. It saves me on days when I have stuff going on in the evenings, or on those days when I know I’ll be really busy. Most crockpot recipes seem very winterish though, don’t they? I used to never use my crockpot in the spring and summer, but this recipe is really very nice all year round. It’s a great clean eating dinner option!

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I also love recipes that can be prepared with ingredients you can always have in the house. This is one of those recipes, and it’s delicious! I buy a big can of orange juice concentrate and it’s enough for four of these recipes. I always keep frozen mixed pepper strips in the freezer, too. If I don’t have the zucchini, I leave it out or throw something else in! I have used fresh peppers and zucchini and it was wonderful. But that makes for a lot more work! Using the frozen makes this a more time-friendly dinner option:)

Summer’s Bounty Chicken & Fresh Vegetables

(from The New Creative Crock-Pot Cookbook by Rival)

Ingredients:

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 3 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 14 ounce can pineapple chunks, packed in natural juices, drained

Preparation:

Place the chicken in the bottom of the crockpot and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix the orange juice concentrate, honey, basil and garlic. Add the peppers, zucchini, and pineapple to the crockpot and pour the orange juice mixture on top. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Serve over quinoa or brown rice.

Notes: When I made this for dinner tonight I used 8 thin sliced chicken breasts, dried basil, garlic powder instead of fresh, and frozen mixed pepper strips and squash. I also realized too late that I ran out of orange juice concentrate the last time I made this recipe, so I had to google “What to use in place of orange juice concentrate” and use homemade lemonade instead. I thought it wasn’t quite as good as it usually is, but my husband didn’t seem to notice and commented on how good it was so go figure. It’s a very forgiving recipe!

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This is a nice recipe all-year round…It’s a nice change of pace in the wintertime, and a great way to use that crockpot in the warmer weather. It also makes great leftovers, and it’s clean!

Treats or no treats?

I have a bit of a sweet tooth…I love chocolate. I used to polish off the frosting left over when the cake was done. S’mores are one of the most delicious things out there, and there was a brief Pinterest-inspired frenzy during which I whipped up all kinds of S’more creations, each one more ridiculously sweet and delicious than the next. I could eat an entire pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream in one sitting. (Rocky Road was my favorite before nut allergies ruined the fun of that…how do they get the marshmallow swirl to stay so soft throughout the ice cream? I think it’s kind of a miracle really…and I could go on and on…)

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Sweet tooth, with a dash each of emotional eating and bingeing. I won’t go into details on the more personal issues at hand here, but I will say- eating clean and Shakeology have made a huge difference in my eating habits. I rarely binge and when I do it’s usually on granola and maybe some chocolate chips.

And my cravings are drastically reduced. I have sat in front of a plate of Girl Scout cookies, Samoas included, and not eaten one, and not felt at all deprived or tempted or anything. I have gone to the local ice cream place with my children and watched them eat ice cream and not felt left out or weird or sad. (I have also gone there and enjoyed a cone with them, but we live in walking distance to this place and if I indulged every time I don’t think that would be a good choice.) And even though I make my own frosting now, I throw out leftovers.

I don’t want to be a psycho (and no offense is meant to the psychos out there- part of me admires you and your commitment) who never eats cake or ice cream but I don’t want to feel like I have to eat cake or ice cream so people won’t think I’m a psycho either. Does that make sense? And it’s mostly my children’s perception of me that I consider. I want them to have a mom who can enjoy an ice cream with them, and munch on buttery popcorn with them on movie night. I also want them to have a mom who shows restraint and concern for her health, part of which is affected by food choices.

I do believe sugar begets sugar. So the more you can keep sweet treats (even if they’re clean- they’re still sweet) out of your life the better. But I’ve also heard deprivation can set you up for a fall. If you’re feeling constantly deprived you’re more likely to fail. I don’t really feel deprived when people eat sweets around me, but I still sometimes get that itch for something sweet- after dinner usually.

I also have my own nutrition and nutrition goals to consider. Cravings are a problem for me. I eat when I’m stressed. I want to have a healthy relationship to food. I want to eat good healthy food as fuel for my body. I want to enjoy treats now and then, and enjoy them without guilt, but I don’t want to feel powerless over food.

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So now I’ve gotten to a point where I feel pretty good about my habits, but need to tighten them up a bit. While I know the importance of planning and prepping, it’s still hard! Life is busy. There’s always something messing up the routine- that’s life. But I do feel more positive and more in control when I am planned and prepped. So I need to be more committed to making that happen. Do I plan for treats?

When I eat according to a plan (a general plan at least) I’m also less likely to give in to cravings. I definitely struggle with eating clean and making good choices 1) when I’m hungry and 2) when I’m tired. So getting a good night’s sleep is important, too! When I’m tired it’s too easy to say, “Screw it,” and eat the chocolate chips.

So this brings me back to the question that prompted me to write this post. Should I make “clean” treats to have on hand when cravings strike or does having “clean” treats on hand invite disaster? I made coconut oil chocolates today and they’re yummy. If I have a bad day tomorrow will I eat all of them? Maybe. But maybe it’s eat all of the coconut oil chocolates or eat an entire bag of chocolate chips. Or maybe if I didn’t have the coconut oil chocolates I’d ride out the craving and not eat any treats at all. Should I allow a little something sweet each day, having it as part of a plan and not as an answer to a craving? Hmmmm…

What are your thoughts on treats?