Spicy Chicken Drumsticks

Lately I’ve been trying to be a little more creative with meats.  Usually, I buy a huge pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a top round or flank steak, and maybe some pork chops, and I’m good for the week.  Sometimes I make things interesting with a few spices, but more often than not, I eat meat pretty plain.  Inevitably, that gets a little boring, so lately I’ve tried to expand my repertoire, and it’s been surprisingly easy. 

Last week, I picked up some chicken wings and tried my hand at my grandmother’s recipe, and they were delicious.  This week, I bought a package of chicken drumsticks (legs), and I wasn’t really sure what I’d do with them, but I figured I’d just wing it. (See what I did there?)

When it came time to make them, I raided my spice cabinet to see what I had.  And while I could probably stand to stock up on a few new spices, for what I had, these ended up being very tasty. 

First, I put the chicken legs in a bowl and poured in the spices: chili powder, rosemary, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder.  I’m not going to tell you how much of each I used because 1) I didn’t measure and 2) the amounts you want to use are probably different.  You will have to experiment and figure out how much of each you like; just know that it is a winning combination overall. 

After I rubbed all the spices into the chicken, I drizzled the legs with the juice from half of a lemon and popped them in the oven.  I baked them at 425*F for an hour, and for the last couple of minutes, I turned on the broiler. 

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They got nice and crispy on the top, just the way I like it.  It was almost, almost like having a real grill.  (Almost.)

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Along with the chicken, I also baked up some green beans.  I drizzled them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and they baked for just a few minutes less than the chicken.

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With some fresh, sweet grapes to round things out, it was the perfect meal. 

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Besides the cooking time, it only took me five minutes to get everything prepared, and it felt like a much more extravagant meal than that.

And the best part is that I still have leftovers that I plan on eating for lunch today.  I’ve said it before, but making extra at night is the way to go, people.  It’s pretty much the only way to go when you’re cooking for one, but it also allows you to have some pretty fancy lunches, which is guaranteed to spice up any old boring afternoon at work. 

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Have a good one!


Honey Nut Apple Crisp

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with all those apples I got from apple picking a couple of weeks ago, and apple crisp was on the top of my list.  It is the quintessential Fall treat, and I feel like everyone should make it at least once every single Autumn. 

With that said, I knew I’d most likely be the only one to eat it unless I brought it somewhere to share, so I didn’t want to make a huge batch loaded with butter and sugar and end up eating it every night for two weeks.  Instead, I did a little thinking and tried to come up with something a lot healthier that could serve as breakfast, dessert, or even a snack.  I was a little nervous to alter the classic original, but I went for it, and I was really pleased with the results.  My version doesn’t taste exactly like traditional apple crisp, but it’s chewy, sweet, and delicious, plus it’s packed with good-for-you ingredients. 

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Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, medium
  • 1 lemon OR 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 c macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 c cashews
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c almond meal
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

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Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400*F
  • Peel, core, and slice apples. 
  • Layer apples in a 9”x9” baking dish.  Drizzle with the juice from the lemon or the apple cider vinegar.  (I didn’t have lemons but I realize a lot of people don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand.)

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  • Pulse macadamia nuts and cashews in a food processor until chopped into small chunks.  (If you don’t have a food processor, just put them in a bag and crush with a cup.  You can chop them as much or as little as you want, according to your tastes.) 

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  • Pour nuts into a medium mixing bowl and add in sunflower seeds and cinnamon.  (Fair warning:  I like a lot of cinnamon.  If you don’t like it as much, you should use less.)

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  • Melt honey and coconut oil and stir together.
  • Pour melted honey and oil into nuts/seeds mixture and mix until combined. 

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  • Layer mixture on top of apples, spreading evenly. 

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  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is crunchy and browned. 

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Store covered in the refrigerator.  This dish is great served warm or cold, as a breakfast, dessert, or snack.  If you want to get really wild, throw a little ice cream on top of there and go to town! 

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I’m Annoyed. (And you should be too.)

I need to say this: The whole “gluten-free” thing really just irritates me.

Whenever it somehow comes out that I avoid gluten, people are always like “you’re gluten free?!”  like it’s something cool… or weird… or trendy.

And I really just don’t know how to answer them.

The short answer, I guess, is yes.  But there really is so much more to it.

I avoid things like bread, pasta, salad dressings, cookies (when I can), fried foods, beer, and chips because I’ve discovered (through a lot of trial and error) that those things give me stomach aches, pimples, bloating… they basically just make me feel terrible.

And yes, most of those things also happen to contain gluten.

So yes, it comes logically that I would try to avoid gluten when I can.

But I’m not “gluten free.”

(And in fact, I’m not “Paleo” either.)

I’m Megan. 

I eat what makes me feel good, and what makes me healthier, and what I like the taste of.  When I do choose to eat crackers or cookies or bread – every once in a while – I try to make it gluten-free because I’ve learned that if I (personally) don’t, my face swells up and I have a stomach ache that won’t quit and I just want to lay in bed and die.  But more than that, I try to make them quality foods, made with quality ingredients that make me healthier overall – whether they’re gluten free or not.

And that’s all there is to it. 

What annoys me is that some people give “gluten free” a bad name.  They see it as a fad diet that can make them skinner and give them free reign to eat all the bread, pasta, beer, and cookies they want… as long as it’s gluten free.

But that’s just not how it works. 

And if you want proof of that, just check out this article.  (Or Google it. Or read one of my other posts on it.)

The article points out:

People who have a sensitivity to gluten – a protein found in cereal grains, especially wheat – have special needs, and eating gluten-free has a lot of benefits for them. But trying to copy that method when you’re not, in fact, gluten-sensitive can have plenty of downsides.

And it goes on to say:

Cutting down on gluten means cutting down on carbs, and that’s generally a good thing. The fewer muffins, bagels, and breadsticks you’re scarfing up, the healthier and leaner you’re going to be – as long as you’re replacing those carbs with nutritious foods like vegetables and lean meats. But as the number of gluten-free dieters has grown beyond those who simply can’t digest gluten, we’ve also seen a spike in the number of foods marketed as “gluten free.” Some of these foods are okay, but many others are simply new versions of the same old problems – essentially carb-loaded junk foods.

And that is the part that irks me.

The article goes on to talk about 6 popular gluten free foods that are not healthy for you.

“This “Totally Healthy” cake, for example, contains as many calories as 8.5 Fudgesicles, as much fat as 3.5 McDonald’s Hamburgers, and more sugar than 10 feet of Fruit by the Foot candy. Splurge on one of these cakes just twice a week and you’ll pack on 15 extra pounds by the end of the year.”

The moral of the story is: if avoiding gluten works for you, that’s great.  It seems to work for me, so I’d never knock it.  But if you’re going to do it, do it right.

Cut out the bad carbs and replace them with good ones.

Cut out the processed, sugary, food-like crap and eat real, whole, nutrient-dense food.

If you’re going to splurge, splurge on something that’s made with quality ingredients… not a list of fake, factory-made components that aren’t going to make you any healthier – even if they are gluten free.


Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t know if it was the mint chocolate chip ice cream I had the other day or the homemade thin mints I made a couple weeks ago, but Friday night, when I decided I wanted to make cookies, mint chip was the first thing that came to mind.  I still had some peppermint extract in my cabinet and I didn’t really know how it was going to work out, but I was more than willing to give it a try.  I love anything mint + chocolate, and this recipe isn’t that different than my basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, so I figured I had a good chance of coming  up with something tasty.

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And what I ended up with was a minty, chocolately ball of goodness.  (Besides the dark chocolate chips, these are also dairy/gluten/grain/sugar free.)  Right out of the oven, they were moist and gooey, but after they cooled, they were still just as yummy.  And I bet they would be delicious right out of the freezer, too!

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Ingredients:

  • 7 dates, pitted
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (or more) dark chocolate chips

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Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350*F.
  2. Process dates in food processor until they are pureed into a ball.  (If you don’t have a food processor, just use more honey instead of dates and use a mixer or a fork to make the batter.)
  3. Add eggs, peppermint extract, coconut oil, and honey and blend until mixed.
  4. Add almond flour, coconut flour, and cocoa powder slowly and blend until mixed. 
  5. Add chocolate chips and mix well. 
  6. Shape into small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Press down to flatten.  (They won’t change shape much while baking.)
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. 
  8. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 
  9. Eat immediately or freeze the extras to save for late.  Pop them in the microwave on defrost or let thaw on the counter when ready to eat!

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Give them a try and let me know what you think! 


Fill Me Up, Buttercup

On Tuesday morning, it was another really tough workout, and for the first time in a while, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish it.  I started out with things that weren’t so familiar to me, making them all the more challenging, and then the seemingly not-so-bad workout nearly killed me.  50 push presses at 65# was heavy for me, and I felt like I had lead legs by the time I got to the burpees.  I had never done wall walks before, but by that point, I was pretty sure my arms were going to give out on me and I’d end up on my head.  It’s funny, but somewhere along the line, box jumps somehow became one of the easiest elements of a workout.  Who would’ve guessed?

  1. Warm-up and stretch
  2. Snatch:
    1. 1×3 55#, 1×5 75#, 1×5 85#
  3. 1 Clean + 3 Front Squats + 5 Deadlifts x5 @ 105#
  4. Workout:
    1. 50  Push presses @ 65#
    2. 40 Box jump overs
    3. 30 OH squats @ 65#
    4. 20 Burpees
    5. 10 Wall walks
  5. Core (4x):
    1. 25 Swiss ball sit ups
    2. 50 Weighted side bends
  6. Cool down

We are in the middle of a serious heat wave over here this week, so the last thing I wanted Tuesday morning was a hot breakfast.  Instead, I brought cold chicken with cucumbers and grapes, and it was the perfect meal. 

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For lunch, I had baked chicken, zucchini, and tomatoes with Italian spices and crushed red pepper, and I just about melted on the couch at home eating it during lunch!

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For dinner, I wanted to try to use the buttercup squash I bought this week, and I really had no idea what to do with it, but I just went for it.  I’m sure there’s a “right” way to do it, but at the same time, I really don’t think you can mess it up.

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That thing was hard to cut through, but very carefully, I managed to slice off a chunk to cook. 

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I scooped out the seeds and microwaved the pieces for five minutes before baking them in the oven.  I picked up some turkey tenderloins this week too, so one of those went in the oven right alongside the squash. 

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After about 30 minutes, I had my very own super simplified version of Thanksgiving dinner.  (My favorite holiday, by the way.)  I thought about topping the squash with honey or maple syrup, but I wanted to give it a shot on it’s own first.  I definitely think it would’ve been good that way, but it was still sweet by itself.  It wasn’t that much different in texture from butternut squash, but it did have a slightly different taste. 

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The only thing that was missing was cranberry sauce.  Cranberries are hard to find off-season, but some mashed up cranberries would be so good paired with this dish!  Imagine if I baked them right on top of the little squash boats?  Fill me up, buttercup!

After dinner, I got a serious craving for Larabars, but didn’t want to go out to the grocery store, so I decided to give the homemade ones a shot.  First, I mixed up some cashews and dates in the food processor, and next I did peanuts and dates. 

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I got the pieces good and small, and then scooped out the mixture, rolled it into balls, and flattened it into some sort of edible shape. 

DSC_0389 I didn’t know quite how much of each ingredient to use, so I’ll have to play with the amounts.  I’m thinking more dates would mean a stickier mixture, but I’m not sure if that’s actually what would work best or not. 

I threw them in the fridge for a while, and when I was ready to snack on one, I had it alongside some sliced strawberries and grapes. 

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They weren’t half bad for my first try; they tasted just like their Larabar counterparts, and I didn’t even have to leave my own kitchen!


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