Making dinner, memories, and the first chicken tenders since I quit gluten!

Making dinner, memories, and the first chicken tenders since I quit gluten!

Delicious Chicken Tenders

A recently discovered recipe from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Diane Sanfilippo’s new cookbook KETO Quick Start. They are SO Delicious, they took me all the way back to childhood. Seriously. I dare you to try this recipe.

I love cooking alone, and I used to thoroughly enjoy the breaded and fried things a la KFC. . .
but now these are both things of my past! Living with my partner (and fiancé, Doug) has changed the dynamic of my kitchen. We not only share the space in the fridge, and the food in the cupboards, we are sharing the joy and responsibility of cooking meals. Dinner is often split thusly: he does the protein, and I make sure veggies are somewhere to be found, whether they are in the form of a salad (with home made dressing) or roasted in the oven.

Yesterday, we worked together on his usual task to make Keto Chicken Tenders from Diane Sanfilippo’s new book Keto Quick Start which I am loving. You’re wondering whether I mean the book or the recipe? Honestly, I have to say … BOTH!

This cookbook is more than just recipes, it is also a textbook to teach you all the in’s and out’s of Keto. Not simply what foods to eat and to avoid, but why it is important to do so, how it will affect you when you start to change the way you eat, and how you can expect to feel and for how long. I kid you not, the first half (165 pages!!!) is filled with tips, guides, and explanations.

And… I don’t know about you, but when I decide to try a new way of eating, I need to know all the things before I start.

⇒ If you’re nodding your head on the other side of the screen, this cookbook & guide is for you.

I think I’m getting too excited. And side-tracked! I’m here to share this delicious Chicken Tender recipe with you! First, I want you to know, I have never made ANYTHING like this before. I’ve shied away from egg-dipped and crusted foods since … well, perhaps living at home in high school. Honestly, I used to get very squeamish around uncooked (…raw) meat, and I am perhaps a little concerned about the possibility of contracting a bacterium from raw eggs. (I’m sure if you ask Doug, or my sister, they’ll roll his eyes and confirm this by telling you of the many times I wash my hands when working with any of the above items). So, this was going out on a limb for me, but that was ok because…

I really wanted to have chicken tenders!

I have to be honest, when I was a kid (and maybe a couple times right after I got my first “real” corporate job and was making a little money), I loved the McDonalds chicken nuggets dipped in honey mustard. {BLUSHING HARD – don’t look at me! This is so embarrassing!} I know, I know! You can’t believe this is true. I’ve always eaten so healthy. That’s SO FAR from the truth, however it is true I’ve been on a much healthier track for the last 10-12 years or so. But I digress. After reading through Diane’s book, I knew I needed to give these Keto Chicken Tenders a shot for my inner six-year-old.

So we got to work! The chicken tenders are dipped in egg, then coated with a mixture of coconut flakes, coconut flour, and spices. These are then fried in batches in a small amount of quality cooking oil which covers the bottom of the pan for a few minutes on each side (we chose coconut oil to keep with the theme. Also, coconut oil has high heat stability). I was in charge of dipping and coating the chicken, while Doug browned the crust in the pan.

The next step was to finish cooking in the oven for 15 at 375˚F or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165˚F. With our handy timer (We used this Taylor thermometer) we simply had to wait for the … BEEP!

While the chicken was finishing, we washed the dishes, and got out the mustard for dipping sauce. Since this is a Keto recipe, we used plain mustard (no honey to appease that inner child) for dipping.
This was fine.

More than fine. The tenders were delicious with plain mustard.

The chicken is dipped in a coconut “breading”, and the crust is delightfully sweet in flavor due to this lovely topping. This was perhaps enhanced by the use of coconut oil, as well. And they were SO GOOD. I can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow… I think it’s time to make dinner, now, so here is the recipe for your enjoyment!!!

Keto Chicken Tenders
(from Diane Sanfilippo’s Keto Quick Start Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cooking fat of choice (we used coconut)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 Tbsp Trifecta Spice Blend (Diane’s BB Spice blend)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 lbs. chicken tenders*
  • prepared yellow mustard, for serving (and dipping!)

Note: If you are avoiding nightshades, omit the paprika.

*We used chicken breasts and cut to size (roughly 1 by 4-inch strips) instead of chicken tenders. This was a little more work, but a couple dollars less per pound for organic chicken!

How-To:

  • Preheat oven to 375˚F and prepare a baking sheet with wire rack on top

  • Place a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Use just enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan, and allow it to melt and become hot (but not smoking!). While fat is heating up, bread the chicken.

  • Create a station for the chicken: In a large, shallow bowl or dish, whisk the eggs until well beaten. In a second large shallow bowl or dish, whisk the coconut, coconut flour, and spices until well combined.

  • Dip a piece of chicken in the egg to coat completely, allow the excess to drip off, then dredge the chicken in the flour mixture to coat completely. Shake gently to remove excess. Repeat this process for all the chicken tenders.

  • Working in batches (as they fit in the pan) place the chicken tenders in the hot pan and cook for 3-4 minutes each side, until the breading is golden brown. Add more cooking fat the pan as needed. Transfer browned tenders to the wire rack on the baking sheet and space evenly.

  • Once all the chicken is browned, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165˚F. Serve with mustard on the side.

Doug and I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Also, Diane’s book is a wealth of knowledge and great recipes! Click here to order your copy! (also, if you’re not following @dianesanfilippo on Instagram, I suggest you begin today for more great recipes and tips. Also, there are giveaways happening for the Keto Quick Start!)

Let me know what you loved about this recipe in the comments below!

Much love!

      Alaina & Doug

More Recipes

Orange Juice

Boiled Crab

Baked Bread

fabulous breakfast bread and how to make it (gluten – free!)

fabulous breakfast bread and how to make it (gluten – free!)

Many of you have been asking about this bread for quite some time, and I really want to share the recipe with you…
but I have to be honest …

This recipe is … well, somewhat improvised. EVERY. TIME.

I grew up eating baked goods. There was always bread for sandwiches (my parents even had one of those bread maker machines for a while), rolls with dinner, holiday quick-breads, sticky-buns and cinnamon rolls as treats, and let’s not forget all the chocolate chip cookies and brownies (and breakfast German pancakes which I now make with this gluten-free recipe). I think my favorite thing as I’ve grown into an adult was the smell of something baking in the oven, and the warmth of the oven heating the house (or the tiny 1900 era freezing apartment I lived in throughout my corporate career years). I find myself now in a place where I can say I am, somewhat, a “seasoned baker.” I know what I enjoy adding to my quick-breads, and understand what the batter should look like when complete and ready to bake.

And to be perfectly honest, I enjoy experimenting!
There’s something to be said for opening up the cupboards to see what you have to work with and improvising after you’ve decided on your basics. We have a persimmon tree at our house which produces plenty fruit … for a few households. We’re looking forward to many persimmon-based breads (rather than banana) in the future!

Why I call it “Breakfast Bread”:

This bread is what I now consider my “classic” quick-bread.
Yes, it uses fruit, eggs, butter, dense (protein-rich) flour, some added nuts, but there is
NO ADDED SUGAR.

So, obviously, this means you can eat it for breakfast! Right?

Are you ready to go on a baking adventure with me?

Trust me, you can do this, too!

Here are the Basic Ingredients (these I do not change):

  • 3 medium size bananas (or add equivalent zucchini for up to 2 bananas – you will want at least 1 banana for sweetness)

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 stick (1/2 Cup) salted butter (melted) And yes, I always use salted butter. I like it better. You are welcome to use unsalted if you wish

And that’s the beginning! So here’s how you pull these together:

  • Mash the bananas in a large bowl until kinda liquidy

  • Add two eggs and mix well

  • Pour in the melted butter while stirring (you don’t want your butter to be too hot because it may start cooking the eggs! I usually let mine cool a little before adding to the batter).

Next, we get to play with the variable ingredients.

First, I love to add (unsweetened) coconut.

I am not sure why (ha!), but I love this delicious nut-meat; the way it gets toasty where it sticks out of the bread is such a pleasant taste and aesthetic, this is the first add-in for my bread (or muffins) every time. As for quantity? I go with my gut. It’s not an essential ingredient, but I like it to take up some space. Good added fat with these little white flakes.

Topping the bread or muffins with coconut just before they go into the oven is a nice finishing touch!

Next, I add chia seeds. Why chia, you ask?

 These little seeds absorb a ton of moisture. And they’re good for you! They are highly complex food which offer a ton of energy and health benefits such as omega-3’s, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, a decent helping of good fats, and vitamins and minerals. They’re easily digestible, and perfect for breakfast. Again, no specific measurement, but enough to darken the batter a bit (start small – if you add too many chia seeds, your batter may become VERY thick. Try a tablespoon or two and add as you gain experience and become used to your batter texture).

 

When the ingredients are all mixed together, your batter will look golden

with pretty evenly spaced white and black spots (of coconut and chia).

Bananas, eggs, and butter do not make a very thick base, so next, we add the thickeners.

I am a HUGE Fan of Oats (and gluten-free Oat flour, as you may have learned from my other gluten free recipes) – lots of fiber and protein from these flakes of goodness and they sure do add some heft to keep you feeling full after that one muffin you grab as you run out the door to start your day.

I add enough oats to, again, absorb more moisture and a little tapioca flour to lighten the texture of the batter just a little.

Last flour ingredient is the oat flour itself. The batter should feel almost complete – like any banana bread you’ve made before.

 

The last steps:

  • Spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and ginger (as you please)

  • Salt (dash)

  • The chemical reaction necessities: 1 Tbsp. Bragg Organic Vinegar and 1 tsp. Baking Soda

The last time I made muffins, I added apple, pecans, and candied ginger (the only bit with real sugar added… and honestly, candied ginger goes into every loaf or muffin. It’s that good). Once you add the last ingredients, stir till combined, and bake in either your muffin tins or bread pan at 350 degrees until done. Muffins take about 25 minutes, and bread will take longer, 45-60 minutes depending on how much moisture is in your batter. (The apples make the baking time quite a bit longer).

Top with oats or coconut or pecans (or walnuts if that is your preference) and enjoy with yogurt or simply butter a slice and enjoy with your morning coffee or tea. We now make muffins out of this recipe, and my fiancé takes one to work everyday as a lunch addition (and it usually becomes a mid-morning snack).

This has become a weekly staple in my home, and I hope you enjoy creating your own special breakfast loaf as much as I have over the last couple years.

Much love!
Alaina

fueling up with an Age-Old Favorite: Banana Bread

fueling up with an Age-Old Favorite: Banana Bread

My childhood was full of delicious, gooey-topped sweetly satisfying banana bread. In college, I became an avid baker (of sweet treats), and banana bread was my go-to. Any night I needed a “fix” or some tasty treat (which I frequently called breakfast…) this familiar quick-bread was there to keep me moving while running around like… well, college student chasing good grades, too many extra-curriculars, and a part-time job. 

Baking has become a favorite past-time, and is equally as helpful as the thing that allows the stress to melt out of my body at the end of a too-long, stressful day. As much as running has become my moving meditation, this too, is another form of meditation: a mindful practice of creating a healthy meal at the end of day, so I can continue on to the next one with verve and vigor. I’ve developed quite a few dinner recipes that only require chopping, a pan, and a foil topper. I am not sure if I developed this practice out of wanting to heat up the various apartments I’ve lived in during winter, or because my baking sense seems to be better developed than my stove-top capabilities. Whatever the reason, I concentrate most of my time with items headed for my little Wedgewood oven. (Literally little – they didn’t make the baking space very large in the 50’s!)

When I learned that wheat was the culprit behind the physical pain I was experiencing, I was met with a huge challenge to overcome. 

I loved baking breads, cookies, and all the sweet things made with wheat. I was seriously disappointed about the change about to take place in my (food) life. I suspected at a younger age, that due to familial allergies to the grain I may also be impacted, but never dreamed that taking wheat out of my diet would lead me to feeling so much better. Connecting the physical discomfort I had been tolerating for years to gluten and wheat was upsetting, and at the same time, extremely liberating. I now know why I felt so uncomfortable after eating certain foods. This enlightening experience caused me to take a look at all the other foods I was eating that might be complicating my digestion. I started to pay more attention to the way I felt after eating. At a yearly check-up, I described my symptoms to my doctor, and was diagnosed with “Leaky Gut” which was an interesting experiment with diet. I immediately found a program to follow, and removed all sugar from my diet to allow my gut to heal. When I re-introduced sugar, a lot of my symptoms flared back up, and I felt extremely uncomfortable. 

Encouraged by my findings, I really began experimenting with myself and how different foods affected my body. I had already cut out wheat (and gluten-y grains), so why not try reducing, limiting, or even removing added sugar from recipes? Unsurprisingly, this task was not as easy as I hoped. Removing an item that starts out as a solid and then becomes a liquid while baking, and re-hardens when cooling changes recipes in a rather BIG way. 

But, as the adult who was once the child dipping carrot sticks in chocolate pudding of her middle-school cafeteria lunch (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it… the veggie crunch AND sweet chocolate were a very satisfying combo!), I would not be discouraged! Food experiments are my mo-jo!

My first banana bread experiment involved NO sugar, add one extra banana. Response from friends (taste testers whether they wanted to, or not) was something like this: “It doesn’t have much flavor.” So, I added TWO extra bananas (totaling five bananas and kind of reducing the effectiveness of my “less sugar” goal), and got this response: “Is it zucchini bread?” Obviously not! 

I had to test more variations…

To date, I have experimented with adding extra bananas, gave the recipe a shot with half the suggested amount of sugar (because people don’t like banana bread that is not sweet and I was starting to give up), gave maple syrup a go (and no), and finally landed on locally sourced, fresh from the farmer’s market, honey. The goal for me in creating this recipe is to make it gluten free (of course), and to reduce the quantity of sugar added to this bread, leaning toward a more natural sources.

Finally, success!

Well received by my co-workers, roommates, and anyone else I could get to eat some banana bread, this recipe (if not quite the sugar-laden version our grandmothers made for us) is acceptably tasty.

I love to share my creations with you.

So here is the recipe! I hope you enjoy this gluten free alternative recipe, and that it reminds you of childhood days at Grandma’s house, playing with the lincoln logs, and enjoying that fresh-baked Banana Bread goodness.  

Banana Bread – Gluten Free

1. In a large bowl, mash bananas with honey until it starts to liquify.
2. Add eggs and Vanilla and mix well
3. Slowly add melted butter while mixing (so as not to cook the eggs!)
4. In a separate bowl combine oat flour, tapioca starch, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and psyllium husk powder. 
5. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture slowly, stilling until combined evenly.
6. Lastly, add Apple Cider Vinegar right before popping this bread in the oven. (This helps to activate the Baking soda and create a fluffier bread – but the reaction happens quickly)
7. Pour into a greased and floured bread pan to bake
8. Bake at 300 degrees F for 40-60 min (depending on your oven/altitude) – your nose will tell you when it is done!

A toothpick test: when it comes out clean (or nearly) you can pull it out of the oven!

I created a PDF for you! You may print, or save, for future use: Downloadable Grandma’s Banana Bread PDF

Once you’ve tried the recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out in your kitchen! Please let me know in the comments below.

Much love!
Alaina