Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pumpkin-kissed chicken nuggets

I should be cleaning my house. Seriously. Both kids are asleep, the husband is out of town, and I didn't quite get through the normal "drill" this evening. (And there is those five loads of laundry I did this weekend which I have yet to fold.) But who wants to clean when one can be blogging about food? Not this lady. (Besides, I've accepted that my house will be partially disastrous for the next 20 years.)

On to said food...

A friend bought a book for me called "The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet...," from which I I modified (significantly) a recipe for "chicken nuggets." Perhaps what I should say is that I referred to that recipe simply to discern the temperature at which the nuggets were baked.

Instead of using chunks of chicken breast, I used a combination of ground turkey and chicken breast meat, simply because the ground meat is super moist, and I intended to skip the traditional four-part breading process (milk, flour, egg, breadcrumbs), and use shredded coconut only. This was inspired by an experience making paleo fish sticks (that required a three-step process: coconut flour, then egg, then shredded coconut). As it turned out, the egg wasn't working (maybe because coconut flour is SUPER absorbant), so I quit and just dipped the fish in water before rolling in shredded coconut. They turned out marvelously. The lazy chicken-nugget-breading process was born!

Without further adieu, here is the recipe.

1 pound ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef...)
1/2 C pumpkin puree
1/4 C blanched almond flour or almond meal
garlic and sea salt to taste
1 C shredded coconut (you may need a bit more, so keep the bag out until you complete the breading process)
1-2 C coconut oil (this can vary a lot -- if you observe the medium-heat frying requirement, and your pan isn't too large, then 1 C should be sufficient)

*you could omit the garlic and use cinnamon for a sweet version

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place 1 or 2 baking sheets out.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients except shredded coconut and coconut oil. Mix thoroughly. A mixer will do the job more quickly than your wrist/spoon.
  4. Place shredded coconut in a bowl or on a plate.
  5. Scoop about 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture and flatten it a bit.
  6. Roll the flattened "ball" into the shredded coconut, and smush it down (to encourage the coconut to stick to the mixture). Repeat this until all of the mixture has been used. (I like to lay them out on a plate to carry over to the stove for frying -- stacking them works fine.)
  7. Place 1 cup of coconut oil into a frying pan, and heat on medium for a few minutes. Then add the "nuggets" (as many as will fit, still leaving enough space to get a utensil in for flipping -- I use a small turner).
  8. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side (careful not to burn them), then remove them to the baking sheets you set out previously. (As the coconut falls off in the oil, it may burn over time -- you can scoop it out if you wish -- I keep a bowl near my frying pan for collecting the stray coconut.) You may wish to place them onto a paper-towel-lined plate before putting them on the baking sheet:
  9. I tend to use parchment paper because I'm REALLY lazy when it comes to cleaning baking sheets.

    I think this is about 2 pounds worth.

  10. After all nuggets have been fried and placed on the baking sheets, pop them into the oven for 15-30 minutes (until golden brown and/or until internal temperature is at least 160F). 
These nuggets freeze well. If you freeze them, don't defrost them prior to re-heating. Simply place the frozen nuggets on a plate, and microwave on high power for about 4 minutes (time may vary depending on size of the nuggets -- too long and they will get hard, not long enough and they will be too cold).

If you are reading this blog and have advice for the perfect combination of fry-time and cook-time to acquire excellent crispiness, please advise!  I found a variation in crispiness nugget-to-nugget.

Oh, and this recipe is easy to double (or quadruple) the recipe, as I did here:
    Yes, that's quite a stack! Four pounds of ground turkey and chicken breast.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Long lost garden updates

Happy August!  I've taken many photos of my garden over the summer with intention to blog, but never could afford the time. Long story short: we vacationed for two and a half weeks during late June and early July. That was bad. Really bad. Lesson: Never leave my garden during peak-growing times.

After returning from vacation, I spent a bit of time cutting grass (with scissors) that surrounded the squashes I had planted along the fence. My beans are all toast, as are my cubes. I also managed to spend ten to fifteen minutes a few days weeding, which felt horribly futile. Not only were weeds encroaching viciously on my vegetable plants, but the rains had washed a lot of nutrients out of my soil (a reality I gleaned from chatting with my seasoned-gardner of a neighbor last week).  

I managed to get the kids into our local nursery one rainy day earlier this week to pick up some fish-based fertilizer. I had refrained from ever using fertilizer to keep things as organic as possible, but I chatted with an organic farmer at my local Farmer's Market last week, and she suggested fish and/or seaweed based fertilizers.

My wee babe went down for his nap this morning at 8:30, and I managed to get Peanut outside to enjoy his sandbox while I labored away in my so-called garden.  After one hour I managed to remove weeds from my tomatoes and broccoli. Insane. But I figured there would be no point in fertilizing the weeds, so it had to be done.  I hope to get to my carrots and what's left of my greens this weekend.

Here are before and after photos from this morning...

And yes, my tomatoes are at least partially blighted.