Monday, January 28, 2013

Crispy Baked Sriracha Chicken Tenders

Fried foods. Something I swore I would NEVER make in my kitchen, and to this day, I am proud to say I have kept that promise. Unfortunately, we LOVE chicken tenders. There is just something about a crispy, juicy chicken tender that entices your taste buds. Friends, I am here to tell you that you don't need a deep fryer to produce crispy, juicy tenders!

Crunchy baked sriracha chicken tenders

I started following the food blog, Katie's Cucina after the Great Food Blogger cookie swap last year. She was one of the random bloggers that I sent my Cherry Walnut Oatmeal cookies to. 

Baked, Not Fried

She recently posted a recipe for baked (not fried) chicken strips that promised to be just as crunchy and tender as the fried version. I was immediately intrigued and drawn to one of my most requested (and most raved about) recipes for inspiration, the Buttermilk-brined Pork Chops. Why not marinate the chicken in a Sriracha-buttermilk mixture before coating in spicy, herby flakes and baking? 

Glad I merged the two recipes together, because it was fantastic, and a healthy alternative to fried chicken tenders. Crispy outside, tender and juicy inside...yummy!

Crunchy baked sriracha chicken tenders

These will be great for game day with several condiments for dipping. I also tried a few of the tenders in Panko bread crumbs instead of Corn Flakes. It was a nice alternative, but the Corn Flakes were my favorite.

Crispy Baked Sriracha Chicken Tenders 

Adapted from Katie Cucina's Crunchy Baked Chicken Strips
Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes + marinating time
Cook Time: 25 minutes

2 14oz. packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 2 lbs of chicken tender cuts
2 c fat-free buttermilk
3 T Sriracha or other chili sauce
2 T salt, split
2 egg whites
4 c Corn Flakes or other unsweetened corn cereal
2 T paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 T garlic powder

If starting with whole chicken breasts, rinse and dry the chicken. Cut the breasts into long strips, similar to the size of a tender. I got about 6-8 tenders from a whole chicken breast.

In a large ziploc bag, mix the buttermilk, Sriracha and 1 T salt until the salt has disolved. Add the chicken and massage the mixture into the chicken and seal the bag. Place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. The longer the chicken marinates, the more juicy the tenders.

Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease a cookie cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Whisk the egg whites in a shallow bowl and set aside. In a food processor, pulse the corn flakes, thyme, paprika and remaining salt. Pour this into a separate shallow bowl.

Crunchy baked sriracha chicken tenders

Remove each piece of chicken from the bag and dip into the egg white bowl to evenly coat. Then dip into the corn flake mixture bowl to evenly coat and place on the prepared racks. Repeat for all of the tenders and bake for 25 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

Serve with favorite dipping sauce such as Sriracha ketchup or honey mustard.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Crunchy Nut Granola

Granola is the best! I used to think it was so healthy until I actually read the ingredients and nutrion label on many store bought brands. I was amazed at how much sugar and random ingredients were in the granola. Since sugar is a trigger for my flare ups and I like to eat granola, we set out to make our own! Granola is not as hard as it looks to make. I featured a pumpkin granola during my Pumpkin Recipe Roundup in October last year.

Crunchy Nut Granola

Personally, I could eat pumpkin granola every day, but Ryan likes a bit of variety outside pumpkin season and most people aren't as obsessed with pumpkin as I am. So we set out to create a basic granola recipe that was versatile enough for everyone! 

When I say "basic granola recipe," I mean that the measurements and cooking temperature and time won't change, but the ingredients are easily substituted based on your tastes.

Crunchy Nut Granola

Nuts and Seeds

As long as you have 2 cups of nuts and seeds total, this will be a good ratio to the oats. I like to start with raw seeds and nuts because they contain more nutrients and toasting myself adds a nice flavor and aroma to the granola (not to mention makes your house smell amazing)! There are a variety of nuts and seeds to add in, and I usually change the mixture every time I make this. If you have a Trader Joe's near you, they have very reasonably priced raw nuts and seeds. Here are some suggestions:
  • almonds
  • hazelnuts
  • cashews
  • walnuts
  • pistachios
  • pecans
  • pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • sunflower seeds
  • flax seed
  • chia seeds (added at the end after cooking)


I don't like a very sweet granola, so the basic recipe is not sweet. However, honey or agave nectar can easily be added to the applesauce mixture for more sweetness. Start with 2-3 tablespoons and increase from there. Sweetened applesauce can also be used instead of unsweetened, just make sure to use organic so you aren't adding in any unnatural sweeteners. 

If molasses is not a desired taste, this can be substituted with brown sugar, honey or agave nectar. We like the earthy flavor of molasses in this granola though.

Crunchy Nut Granola

Last Minute Additions

After the granola cooks, I usually like to add in some different textures like dried fruit, chocolate or coconut flakes. For dried fruit, I like to use a combination of tart cherries and currants, however, I have added dried cranberries, apples, raisins and apricots in the past. All have been delicious!

Coconut is another addition that can easily be left off. This is one of the most fought over ingredients in our kitchen. Ryan despises the taste of coconut and can even taste coconut oil in my cooking. I tend to add in the coconut last so that I can make half the recipe without it for him.Chocolate chips or chunks could easily be added to this recipe as well to sweeten up the mix.

Even though we have perfected this gluten-free granola, our next kitchen experiment is a grain-free granola! Enjoy and let me know what your favorite flavor combinations are!

Crunchy Nut Granola

Crunchy Nut Granola

Makes: 8 cups
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes + 25 minutes

5 T olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 c molasses
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
4 c old fashioned oats (use gluten free if available)
2 c raw nuts and seeds (mixture of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, cashews)
1 c dried fruit (cranberries, currants, cherries, apples)
1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1/4 c honey (optional)

In a large saute pan, toast the nuts and seeds until fragrant and lightly browned. Be careful not to burn them (they will burn fast)! This took about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

Toasting Raw Nuts

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with sides with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Once the nut/seed mixture is cooled, roughly chop them in a food processor or by hand.

In a large bowl, mix the (honey if using) oil, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, molasses, applesauce, vanilla extract and almond extract until well combined. Stir in the oats and the chopped nuts and seeds. The granola will be slightly moist, this is good.

Evenly layer the mixed granola onto the baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. When stirring, there should be steam that escapes, this is good and helps make the granola crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Stir in the coconut flakes and dried fruit and store in an air tight container for up to one month.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Year, New Eats and Cultured Vegetables

I'm back! It was amazing to take a few weeks off from work, training, cooking and, well life in general. However, now my body is in dire need of cleansing and my normal routine! Then there is the inevitable New Year's resolutions. Not me. This will mark the first year that I WON'T make a New Year's resolution. Not that I don't appreciate the whole "fresh start" mentality, I just don't think it should be limited to one day out of the year. A "fresh start" can happen any day of the year.

Cultured Vegetables

My fresh start comes in the form of cleansing, eliminating sugar and digestive enzymes! After all the sweets, heavy food, alcohol and several days of no exercise, my body just gets mad at me, forcing me to return to my healthy ways. I thought I would share some of the healthy habits that I have picked up over the last year, mostly in search of a better lifestyle to deal with Crohn's.

First and foremost - cultured vegetables. This has been the single-most important food I have incorporated into my diet since I was diagnosed several years ago. They are simple to make and a batch lasts about a month. The recipe I am sharing today was created by Rose, my mother (who we all know is a big part of why I am healthy today). She read a book called Body Ecology, that changed her life (and system)!

Cultured Vegetables

Before I get to the recipe, here are a few other healthy habits worth trying this New Year.

Raw Brownies

One of the benefits of cultured vegetables is the natural ability to control sweet cravings. Sugar is one of the biggest culprits of my flareups, and also one of my biggest weaknesses, or at least it used to be. After a year of cultured vegetables in my diet, I can honestly say, I do not really crave sweets anymore. However, when I need a little sweet treat, I turn to these Raw Chocolate Brownies (which contain no sugar). The sweetness comes from Medjool dates. I always have a little bag of these brownies in the freezer for a quick and easy sweet satisfaction.

Cultured Vegetables

Habit #2 (Lemon-Cayenne cleanse)

I picked up this habit from the Food Babe, a healthy food blogger that is located in NC as well. She starts every morning with hot water, lemon and cayenne. This is a natural liver cleanse that eliminates toxins from the digestive tract. Considering my condition, I jumped on this habit right away and have been pleased with the outcome ever since. Thank you Food Babe!!

Cultured Vegetables

If you can't quite stomach cayenne-lemon water, at least try Dandelion Tea (add a few drops of stevia for sweetness). I drink tea with lunch every day instead of water to help break down the food. I only drink water before and after meals, never during. This helps keeps bloating down and eases digestion.

Cultured Vegetables

Ways to Eat Cultured Vegetables

Back to cultured vegetables, which is a form of fermented food. Many people ask me why I eat fermented foods and I usually respond with "why not eat the most healing of foods?!?!"

For starters, fermented foods have been around for centuries and now come in several forms: yogurt (plain), kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and soaked grains. For this post, I am focusing on cultured vegetables (sauerkraut or kimchi), which are defined as "cut or shredded vegetables that are left in an airtight sanitary environment for several days or longer at room temperature" according to Body Ecology. This allows the enzymes on the vegetables to proliferate creating a mineral-rich food that aids digestion and eliminates toxins. They help fight yeast and other unhealthy pathogens in your intestines, which is great for controlling sugar cravings (see above). Finally, and most importantly, they are alkaline and very cleansing for the body.

First of all, NEVER heat cultured vegetables. It won't kill you or anything, it will just kill all of the digestive enzymes and good bacteria that you want. Other than just adding them to the side of any meal, here are a few other ways I like to eat them:

  • with blue corn chips or other tortilla chips (the veggies act like a salsa)
  • similarly, mix with avocado for a guaco-cultured-mole!
  • over scrambled or fried eggs
  • with cheese and crackers
  • use some of the brine as a salad dressing. TONS of great nutrients in the dressing!
  • spread on sandwiches in place of a condiment

Cultured Vegetables

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Daddy

Happy Birthday Daddy

I won't deny it, I am a Daddy's girl - always have been! This is probably because my Dad is so amazing. He is one of the smartest men I know and supportive of EVERYTHING I do, well except maybe my speeding tickets!

My father and I have the same silly humor. We love to laugh, and more importantly, we love to laugh at stupid things. He does this stupid thing with his hands on his nose that has made me giggle uncontrollably since I was a kid. He always knows how to cheer me up and put a smile on my face.

Dad has the kindest heart. He is always giving, giving, giving to family, friends, his community, charities. He loves to give his children nice things (and I know my brother and Ryan can attest to that)! But, the thing I respect the most about him, is his undying love for my mother. Forty-two years of marriage, and they still find happiness.

My father has also embraced Ryan like his own son. Ryan endured the greatest loss about 5 years ago when his father passed away from illness. He was a lost soul and slowly found comfort knowing that my father was supportive of him. I love how my dad never tried to replace Dave, but he made himself open as a father-figure to Ryan when he was ready. I have watched their relationship grow over the years and it always puts a smile on my face.

He always gives great advice, especially when it comes to big life decisions, and he never judges me. Dad has a way of always providing unbiased advice towards a decision or situation. All of the major decisions in my life have included advice from my parents, not because they drive my life, but because I truly value their opinion and support.

So why say all of this? Well, isn't it obvious? I love my father very much and am thankful to have him in my life. He even still loves me when I cheer on the Wolfpack over his beloved Tarheels!

Love you Dad and Happy Birthday!!!