Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips with Blue Diamond Almonds

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Posted on Aug 26, 2014 in Food

Super Easy Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips (Baked!)

There are no less than three really delicious fried chicken places within a 10 minute drive of my house. I’m not talking KFC here (trust me, there is absolutely no one who lives in Kentuckiana that actually thinks KFC is good fried chicken). I’m talking restaurants that pan-fry their chicken in a giant, old, well-seasoned cast-iron skillets and serve it up family style with giant bowls of mashed potatoes, Southern-style green beans and chicken ‘n’ dumplins. And probably with some biscuits on the side. And you wash it all down with a big glass of tea that’s so sweet it’ll rot your teeth.

It’s the kind of restaurant that you only go to once a year because you feel so uncomfortably full after you’re done eating that it takes a whole 365 days to recover and want to sign up to do it all over again. It’s masochism, really.

This is not that fried chicken.

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

I think I’ve only made traditional pan-fried chicken at home once, and while it was delicious, it was also time-consuming, messy, and, honestly, kinda annoying to sit there and baby sit pieces of chicken while they bathed in oil. I much prefer doing a bake-fried method when I’m craving fried chicken. Not only is it 100% easier, but it’s also, obviously, a much healthier option for everyday eating. My family’s standard baked-fried chicken recipe uses whole grain cereal to get its crunchy texture—and it’s awesome. It’s a tried and true method that has been gracing our dinner table since I was a kid.

But I have a second, equally awesome method for making crispy, flavorful “fried” chicken in the oven, and that’s the heart-healthy almond.

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

The great thing about crusting your chicken in almonds is that you aren’t just adding something for texture (which, is awesome, because almonds are crunchy by nature and keep that crunch in the oven) or flavor (the almonds toast in the oven, which adds a beautiful slow-roasted flavor to the chicken), but because it adds a ton of nutrition to the chicken, too! You’re getting healthy fats, lean protein, good-for-you fiber, and a ton of vitamins and minerals added to the “batter” of your chicken. It’s like making chicken plus!

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

Using flavored almonds also makes seasoning the chicken a snap. I chose to use one of Blue Diamond Almond’s new honey flavors—Honey Roasted Chipotle. It gave the chicken a slightly sweet, smoky pepper flavor that was out-of-this-world! And no need to pull out all the spices and herbs in your pantry—the flavor is built right in. That’s a heck of a lot easier than KFC’s 11 herbs and spices. Serve the strips up with a honey mustard sauce for dipping, and a nice cold beer, and you’ve got a no-fuss, super delicious weeknight dinner.

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

If the honey-chipotle flavor is a little bit too adventurous to serve to your kids, you can easily make these kid-friendly by subbing in all-natural, raw almonds for the flavored ones, plus adding in salt and black pepper to taste. The plain almonds still add tons of flavor and crunch to the strips, without any “weird” flavors that kiddos might reject.

Enjoy!

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

This heart-healthy version of fried chicken is baked at home in your oven. By using crushed-up almonds to coat the chicken, you get a healthy, crunchy, flavorful chicken strip without any frying!

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup honey-chipotle flavored almonds
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" strips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Using either a food processor, or a zip-top bag and a mallet, mash the almonds until crushed into fine crumbs. Mix with panko, and place in a shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the egg and water, place in another shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
  4. Whisk together the flour, salt and pepper, place in another shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
  5. Dredge each chicken piece in the flour mixture, knocking off excess flour, followed by the egg mixture. Finally, press the chicken into the almond mixture, making sure to coat all sides. Place chicken on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining pieces.
  6. Spray the tops of the chicken lightly with cooking spray, and bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown, and reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
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A Row for the Community

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Posted on Aug 25, 2014 in Gardening

chard garden

Craig and I both feel so fortunate to have the resources to grow our own food. We have the finances to be able to buy seeds. The space to grow acre after acre of crops. The knowledge to know the difference between good garden bugs and bad. And the time to devote to planting, weeding and harvesting. We know not everyone has the ability to produce pounds and pounds of healthy food—and for that ability we are eternally grateful. Without a doubt, we eat healthier (and are healthier) because we can grow our own healthy, fresh produce to eat with every meal.

garden basket

During one of our marathon gardening days last summer, we started talking about how unfortunate it is that not everyone has access to fresh food like we do. We understand that gardening isn’t the spiritual experience for everyone as it is for us. And we also understand that a lot of folks lack the resources that are required to grow—or even just buy—healthy, fresh, produce. So we started brainstorming ways we could help. How could we take this passion for growing food and make it a positive for our community?

We had a lot of great ideas. And many of them are still in the back of our minds for future implementation. But we wanted something immediate. Something we could do with the resources we had on hand to make a difference.

So right then and there, we decided we were going to plant a row for our community.

me compost hands garden

If you’re fortunate enough to have never needed to step food inside a food pantry, you might not know this, but food pantries are fresh food deserts. Think about the last food drive you heard about. Ever hear anyone say anything about holding a tomato drive or a strawberry drive? No, it’s always a canned food drive—it’s all about the non-perishables. And while that’s totally understandable from a logistical stand point, the truth is, it isn’t the healthiest way to fuel your body.

I fully believe that just because you are down on your luck doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have access to healthy foods. In fact, I’d even take that sentiment a step further and say that I believe those people who are struggling need healthy foods the most. A healthy diet isn’t just about wearing smaller jeans. It’s about having the energy to face the day, avoiding illness, and feeling good about yourself—all things that can go a long way to make a bleak time feel a little less bleak. I’m not suggesting we toss out all the canned goods and packaged foods in the food pantry—any kind of calories are good when you’re hungry—I’m simply hoping to do a little bit to help supplement the foundation of packaged foods for people in my community.

cucumbers basket

Earlier this Spring, when we were planting our garden, we decided to devote a “row” for donation to our community. I use the term row loosely, because we actually decided to plant a small section of raised beds in an old, run-down greenhouse. It’s a small amount of space—about 25 square feet total—but we were wanting to use this year as a test run before we went bigger in years future.

Garden

Before we devoted a ton of time and resources to this project, we wanted to make sure we had the logistics figured out—where we were going to donate, how we were going to harvest, packaged and transport and what were good items to grow for the food pantry

We did some research about local food pantries, and discovered this incredible organization called AmpleHarvest.org. Their entire mission is to connect gardeners with their local food pantry so they can donate extra crops. We were so happy to find a national organization working hard to do the same thing we were trying to do locally!

Garden Lettuce

AmpleHarvest.org helped us find food pantries in our area that accepted fresh produce (most do), and we eventually landed on the Washington County Food Bank. It’s a small, government-run pantry in our county that had over 7,000 visitors last year. That might not sound like much, but when you take into account the fact that we live in a very rural county, it becomes a little more substantial. The entire population of our county is only 25,000 people!

So far, the experiment has been going incredibly well. We’ve dropped off four times to our local food pantry, and each time, they couldn’t be more grateful for the donations. Our goal for the year was a modest one of donating 100 pounds—we still have a few months of growing season left and we’re already up to well over 75 pounds! We’re thrilled with the results so far.

Garden Donation

Our original thought was to just donate what we grew in the greenhouse, but we’ve been donating a lot more than just that. In the greenhouse, we planted tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, beans and radishes—and while we’ve been donating all of those, we’ve also been donating extra crops from the main garden, too. We’ve dropped off potatoes, kale, yellow squash, zucchini, basil, cantaloupe, and honeydew.

Donation

We have learned a few things for next year that we’ll tweak. First of all, we want to do a much larger “row” than this year! It’s been a total success, and we’d love to expand what we can donate, and maybe even donate to multiple food banks in the area. We’d love to eventually get to the point where we are donating one pound of food for every pound we grow for ourselves, but that’s probably a bit down the road. I think for now, we’ll set a goal of trying to donate 200 pounds next year, and see how it goes.

We also have the idea of working with the food pantry and putting on free workshops to teach people how to garden and how to cook with fresh produce—again, down the road.

Trowel Garden

Next year, we’re also planning on changing what we grow for donation. Because we live in a rural area with a lot of gardeners, in the middle of summer, the food pantry was stocked full of extra tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. When we were planning it out, we figured that volume was better than variety for a donation garden, so we planted varieties that would produce a high volume of fruit, but the truth is, the food pantry was getting so many bags of tomatoes and cucumbers in July, they actually had to throw some out! This might not be the case for a more urban food pantry (which is one of the reasons we’d like to donate to multiple food pantries next year).

So our plan for next year is to still grow some of the high-volume varieties, but instead focus on good producers that aren’t as common to our food pantry’s shelves—”high value” produce, if you will. The volunteers at the pantry were thrilled when be brought in cantaloupe and honeydew! And Craig actually had one client of the food pantry stop him as he was walking in to take a big bunch of kale off the top of our donation box. We’d like to really focus on providing foods that folks might not be able to get elsewhere. I think everyone should get the chance to eat some fresh cantaloupe in the summer!

Garden Basket

I hope our success inspires some of you other gardeners out there to consider planting a row (or two!) for your own community. It feels so great to be able to give back this way! I know it can often be a struggle to find dollars in the budget to donate cash or extra hours in your week to donate time, but by just planting a little more in the garden you’re already growing, you can make a huge impact without devoting a whole lot of extra money or time. It’s an incredibly efficient way to make a difference!

If you are a gardener and are interested in donating your extra crops, I highly recommend checking out AmpleHarvest.org and looking for a food pantry in your area that accepts donations. If you aren’t a gardener, a few dollars sent to AmpleHarvest.org can go a long way to get out the word about their mission.

Happy gardening!