GF "Breaded" Chicken Thighs AKA "The Best Chicken I Ever Made"

gluten free breaded almond meal chicken thighs

I was messing around in the kitchen last week, and was craving a breaded-style chicken. I had unopened almond meal in my cupboard, and voila, I came up with "The best chicken I ever made" - according to my husband. I served it on a cauliflower rice stir fry. Which was a random throw together of cauliflower rice, frozen broccoli and bell peppers, powdered ginger, paprika, liquid aminos and a dash of rice vinegar. The combo was amazing! "Breading" the chicken took an extra 5 minutes of prep compared to my usual go-tos, and it was worth it! 

 The set up is easy enough! One bowl for egg and one for almond meal. 

The set up is easy enough! One bowl for egg and one for almond meal. 

Have you ever heard of engagement chicken? It's this recipe that every time a woman makes it for her boyfriend she finds herself engaged shortly thereafter. I'm not crazy about the premise of the story, but I feel like this recipe would bear similar results. 😂😂

So without further ado, recipe below! I hope you guys try it. If you do, leave me a comment below! - AHS

 

almond meal chicken thighs breaded gluten free

Gluten Free "Breaded" Chicken Thighs aka "The Best Chicken I Ever Made"

the best chicken i ever made gluten free breaded chicken thighs

Ingredients

  • 5 chicken thighs 
  • 1 egg, whisked 
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • Olive oil spray 
  • Herbs de Provence 
  • Salt and pepper 

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease baking dish with olive oil spray.  

Dip chicken thighs on each side in egg. Batter with almond meal. Add to baking dish. Gratuitously add herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. (Note: You could mix the herbs de Provence in the almond meal mixture, but it turned out great just sprinkling it on top.) Some almond meal will come off where you grab the chicken. I just sprinkled those spots with more almond meal once they were in the baking dish. 

Cook for 40 minutes or until inside temperature reaches 165. I recommend using a meat thermometer - every oven is different, and you don't have to worry about overcooking your chicken for safety. :) 

Serve warm, but it's great cold for lunch the next day too! 

Wellness Hack: Frozen Foods

Wellness hack benefits of frozen food

Today I decided I needed to share with you my biggest wellness secret...FROZEN FOOD. Yeah, I said it. Frozen. Food. I'm not talking about old school TV dinners, I'm talking about REAL food, just frozen. 

How is this a hack, you say? Because it seriously keeps me on my game. It's an excellent tool to keep in the Shedding toolkit. Here's why: 

1. It helps you SAVE money!

If you are buying plain frozen veggies, many times they are less expensive than buying fresh! I know, it's crazy! Most of the frozen vegetables I buy are not more expensive than if I bought them fresh. Don't get me wrong, fresh is great, but not necessary for every meal! 

Also, when you have food that is at it's peak ripeness, and you know you won't have a chance to use it before it goes bad? Throw it in the freezer! Say no to food waste! 

2. You don't miss out on any nutrients

How? Doesn't freezing destroy the nutrient value? Actually, in most cases it preserves the nutrients! Most frozen foods are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness when the nutrients are prime for the eating! A lot of time food travels thousands of miles to get to its destination. During this time, many fresh fruits and veggies lose some of their prime nutrients. This is also why shopping local is best! :) Who knew frozen could even be better for you than fresh?!

3. You are always prepared! 

So if you are like me, and are never home OR if you are planning a big trip- frozen food will save you when you come home. Let's say you get back late and have to get right back into a crazy work week upon arrival? No time for the grocery store? No problem! You have all the fixins for a stir-fry or a burger in your freezer!

4. You save time! 

No chopping, washing, trimming or peeling for you! If it's frozen, it's ready to go! This turns an hour long meal prep into 30 minutes. And who doesn't love that?

 

Here are some of my favorite frozen foods and foods to freeze! 

  • 3 minute microwavable packages of brown rice. These are my absolute favorites. I mostly use them in buddha bowls or stir-frys. Also great for soups too! 
  • When I'm going on a trip I buy enough meat for 2-3 weeks and storing anything I won't use that week in the freezer. Chicken and ground turkey are my go-tos, but even bacon works! Meats defrost beautifully if they aren't in there too long! 
  • Frozen shrimp- I buy cooked and uncooked. When I'm really tired it's great to have cooked shrimp ready to go for a pasta dish. 
  • 2 ingredient frozen turkey burgers. So easy, so healthy. What's not to love! 
  • Trader Joe's has an Organic Quinoa, Kale, Sweet potato, Carrot bowl thing that is an easy meal when you are not in the mood to cook. 
  • Frozen riced cauliflower- I use this instead of brown rice to lighten the carb load when I need a lighter meal! 
  • Broccoli florets- I pretty much could use these in any dish. 
  • Bell peppers- Same as above. 
  • Frozen berries for dessert- I love to eat these whole in the Winter. It's almost like eating ice cream. My favorites are cherries and blueberries. 
  • I love throwing overripe fruit in the freezer for smoothies. You could also throw them in with cottage cheese or use them in chia puddings! 
  • Spiralized veggie noodles - easy peasy ready to go! 
  • Frozen shelled edamame - another #shedapproved snack

 

What do you guys think? Into frozen food or not about it? I'm also curious to know what else do you freeze? I am all about expanding my frozen food repertoire – I would love to hear any of your tips for me! 

 

 

Superfood Profile: Bee Pollen

benefits of bee pollen superfoods natural allergy prevention

In honor of allergy season being in full swing,  I thought it would be helpful to provide some insight on Bee Pollen and why it is so extraordinary. 

I had my first experience with bee pollen a few years ago. I was working at a local juice and smoothie shop- and we offered bee pollen as an added superfood boost. I would put it in my smoothie every day, and I swear I never had a spring so unaffected by allergies. Knowing this information and how it affected my own system inspired me to learn more, especially as future years sans bee pollen were quite miserable. 

 

what is Bee pollen? 

Bee pollen comes into existence when honey bees harvest pollen from a variety of plant sources. The bees add their own goodness (nectar) into it, and store it in honeycomb. Through this process it becomes a bonafide complete superfood. It has amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and more! It's pretty incredible. It is not considered vegan because bees create it- however, no bees are harmed in the harvesting of the pollen. 

 

You've probably heard of pollen as an allergen itself, so why would eating it be good for you?

Essentially the thought is that it helps your body build its immune response to pollens. If your immune system is prepared, you will experience less symptoms once allergies are in full swing. This is also why buying local bee pollen is the best if you would like it to help with your seasonal allergies. When you use local bee pollen, the bees are harvesting pollen from plants that likely will be your triggers later. 

 

If I want to prevent allergies, when should i start taking it?

It's best to start a few months in advance to build up an immune response. So probably too late to save you this spring. You can start next month to prepare for autumn allergens, though! That being said, I've noticed a difference with one dose (probably placebo effect but hey, I'll take it!) - so I will still be taking it this spring, even though it's late in the game! 

 

I don't have seasonal allergies, why would I want to add this to my routine?

Key word: SUPERFOOD. This stuff is amazing. I mentioned its a complete food, so it essentially is a natural vitamin supplement. Here are some of the many reported benefits: 

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Protects against liver toxicity
  • Improved energy levels 
  • Improved gut health 
  • Acts as an anti-oxidant
  • Natural stress reliever
  • And many more! (Want to learn more? Check out "Further Reading" at the bottom of the page)

What to look for when buying 

As mentioned before- first and foremost- try to get it locally. I live in Chicago- but farms in other areas of the state or in southern Wisconsin, Michigan, and northern Indiana all would probably be fine because we all share similar Midwest weeds and plants. Check with your local farmers market or try Whole Foods, they often will try to use local vendors. 

Next, it's great to find kernels with a variety of color. They range from yellow to black - depending on what plants the bees took the pollen from. It you have a diversified mix it will help cover you to a variety of plant allergens. 

It comes in a variety of forms (capsules, liquids, etc.) but get the whole kernels. Less processing is always best! 

Side note: there are a lot of similar benefits to eating raw organic honey, however, it is really hard to find unpasteurized honey. The pasteurization process kills off a lot of the beneficial nutrients. Bee pollen on the other hand, not being a liquid, does not get pasteurized, so it retains it's nutritional integrity better. 

 

How to best eat it? 

 My preferred method of ingesting :) 

My preferred method of ingesting :) 

I prefer using kernels on top of my smoothie bowls or mixed in to a smoothie (post blend). Always eat it with other food. If added to fruit it is supposed to activate quickly in the gut!

If you have any serious allergies (I'm talking anaphylaxis) ESPECIALLY to pollen, talk to your doctor about ingesting bee pollen. If you are worried you may have an allergic reaction, you can test by putting one granule on your tongue until it dissolves. If there is no reaction, add another. Repeat until you feel confident you will not have a reaction. 

 

Further Reading

Want to learn more? Check out these resources!

How Bee Pollen Could Cure Your Allergies - Mind Body Green

Top 8 Bee Pollen Benefits - Dr. Axe


What do you think? Will you give bee pollen a try? I am definitely going to add it back into my routine! Happy June! - AHS

Matcha Collagen Fat Balls

shed for the wed matcha fat ball
alexandra hayden shea matcha fat balls

As a special request, I attempted Lee from America's Coconut Fat Balls. I altered the recipe slightly to fit my needs, one of which was MATCHA. Cuz matcha is always a need right?

matcha collagen fat balls food processor

I added Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen, to boot. Why? Matcha contains 137 times the amount of free radical-fighting antioxidants as other green teas and you now can eat them! AND as you know from my collagen post there are so many benefits to adding collagen into your routine. Hello healthy hair, skin, nails, bones and joints! The works. This was a fun way to try out a new way to get my collagen into the routine!

If you follow Lee, you may know she is obsessed Coconut Butter. I have yet to try the magical substance, and it is not available everywhere. That's where my good friend ghee comes in. I substituted ghee for coco butter, and it worked really well. It probably gave the balls a slightly different texture. I think it's the reason my "balls" really look more like cookies. 

Ghee is a form of clarified butter and it's kinda amazing. It's great for people who are sensitive to dairy and it has a higher smoke point than plain butter. Confused about what it is? Clarified butter starts as unsalted butter that is heated on low heat, which causes the milk solids to separate from the rest of the liquid. The milk solids fall to the bottom of the pan after the butter melts. Any foam sitting on the surface is removed. Ghee takes it one step further- after the milk solids separate the butter is simmered until all of the moisture evaporates and the milk solids brown slightly in the pan. This gives ghee a richer, nuttier flavor. 

 I tried at first to fit them on a cookie sheet- my freezer was not big enough for that. So I switched to the plate. 

I tried at first to fit them on a cookie sheet- my freezer was not big enough for that. So I switched to the plate. 

 Yep, that's Stolichnaya in my fridge. All about balance right? Fat balls and Stoli, what a combo. 

Yep, that's Stolichnaya in my fridge. All about balance right? Fat balls and Stoli, what a combo. 

Ghee also has a lot of awesome health benefits - one of which is being anti-inflammatory which is one of my bigger qualms with dairy in general. It also helps to improve digestion, build strong bones, and even can act as a detoxifier!  To learn more about ghee's benefits, read this article.

Back to the fat balls... got a little distracted by glorious ghee there for a moment! I also thought I had dates in the fridge- and I only had one! So to make up for it I added a smidge of honey. I thought it would make them super sticky, but it didn't in the end! The original recipe called for 3 dates – if you would prefer that to honey! Also, apologies to any of you with nut or coconut allergies- just reading the recipe may cause you to break out into hives. 

What I loved about the balls is that they are a perfect snack. If I do a smoothie for lunch and I get hungry- it's the perfect balance and it really feels like a treat! I sometimes forget they are in the freezer - and it's so awesome to find them when I am really wanting a treat and can't find anything! Also side note: I do not advise eating these as an after dinner dessert. They are obviously full of fat, and your body will not have a good amount of time to digest them before bed! Better as an afternoon treat. :)

Oh, one more thing! If you want to make these matcha collagen style like I did, Vital Proteins is having a promo this week: buy one get one 20% off. It's going on through 5/28. So take advantage if you can! You can buy here.

Code: SUMMERKICKOFF

So without further ado the recipe is below! 


Vital Proteins did not pay me to write this post. But they did provide the matcha! If you buy through any of the links I provide, I will get a small commission at no added cost to you. :) And just in case you weren't sure, my opinions all my own. 


Matcha Collagen Fat Balls

(adapted from Lee from America's Coconut Fat Balls) 

matcha fat balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut shreds
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup ghee, melted
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup cashews (I used roasted unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 1 scoop Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 medjool date (pitted)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/3 c. almond milk

Equipment

  • Food Processor
  • (Some say a blender can be used instead, but I haven't tested it.)

Instructions

  1. Blend everything in a food processor until dough is achieved. Dough will be wet, that’s good!
  2. Roll into bite sized balls then lay flat and freeze. Once frozen, place in an airtight container and put back in the freezer for storing. They can last for a while in there! 
  3. Remove from freezer and let thaw 6 minutes before eating for optimal deliciousness!

My Best Friend's (African) Wedding

 Photo by Eileen Laubscher,  BrightGirl Photography .

Photo by Eileen Laubscher, BrightGirl Photography.

To give a bit of background, the my bestie, Anna, lived in Cape Town for a few years, a few years ago. That is when she met Awonke back in 2012. (Fun fact: I came to visit her and met him the month before they started dating! I'm very glad I did because I wouldn't have gotten another opportunity to meet him for at least another 3 years after that!) She moved back to the States in 2014 (right before my wedding!) and these two lovebirds have been doing long distance ever since. I won't go into specifics but it has not been an easy road for them. Through long distance, to immigration issues – it would have been so much easier for them to pull the plug on this relationship a long time ago. But they didn't, thankfully, because they love each other a whole lot.  This wedding was sublime, not just because of the setting or culture, but because it was the start of a new beginning for these two beautiful souls who deserve to be together, wherever they want to be, forever. 

The wedding took place in Durban, South Africa in April – and it was glorious. 

 My only picture from that night that is worthy of sharing. 

My only picture from that night that is worthy of sharing. 

Day 1: Bachelorette Party (and Bachelor Party)

I flew in and made it by 8pm after delays lasting for more than 8 hours! Woof. Not everyone was in yet, but we had a lovely evening drinking wine and catching up with some of my favorite humans. Just, ya know, in Africa. 

Simultaneously the bachelor party was going on, and I think it was a bit... more wild... than our evening. 

 

Day 2: Welcome... and other monkey business

This was the day mostly everyone arrived, so there were last minute details to finish. We distributed welcome bags to the hotel rooms of the guests. They were stacked with goodies, one of which was "biltong" a South African specialty, which is basically another form of beef jerky. The local monkeys knew that there were goodies inside- and I was "attacked." Dramatic. Basically, the monkey lunged at me so I would drop my goods. Luckily, a groomsman came to my aid and escorted me to my room. Because I kept the welcome bag... the MONKEYS FOLLOWED ME to my room! Here is a sentence I never thought I'd say or write – monkeys are sexist and harassers. It's true!! They leave men alone and harass women. Also side note: when I was in Cape Town in 2012 we were attacked by baboons... ask me about that story another time. :)

I also was able to go to the beach with the sistah's of the bride (and co-MOHs!). And that evening was the welcome party! It was amazing to meet so many wonderful people who love my friends just as much as I do. It's always fun to meet friends from different phases in life, but rarely do you have an opportunity to meet friends from another continent. "Good people beget good people,™" is my wedding mantra and this wedding did not disappoint. The party went on long into the night! I should've gone to bed early, but hey, lost track of time, begetting goodness. 

Day 3: It's happening! Wedding day!

Today was the day we had been waiting for, the actual wedding! It was a perfect day. I woke up to a spectacular sunrise (#jetlag). We drank bubbles alongside our dandelion root tea (#shedtip to cure bloat! and yes these two things probably cancelled each other out), got our hair did, and took photos. The ceremony was in a church on top of a hill, with a window wall behind the altar that overlooked the ocean. I was honored to do a reading and be one of the witnesses to their union. The priest was a character. And here is really where things began to get interesting. The groom's family sang the most beautiful songs every chance they could, (you can hear some post wedding in the video below). It was just the beginning. And just like that, these two were married!

(Please don't judge my video skills - I was just trying to capture some of the music and dancing of the day! I legit have no editing skills, feel free to fast forward!)

The cocktail hour looked out over the ocean with an abundance of incredible food. The reception was full of love, laughter, tears, and 10 speeches. No, not a typo, 10 speeches. But they were interspersed throughout the evening and flowed beautifully. There was spontaneous dancing mid-eating. More singing. Dance offs. It was perfect. 

Day 4: the Zulu Wedding

I don't think I've mentioned yet that the entire wedding experience did not feel like real life. It was incredible. And then, the Zulu festivities began. And then it really felt like a dream!

To be clear, I am no where close to being an expert on South Africa's history or culture, but I will try to illuminate on what I do know. There are many tribes (I believe I've read that there are more than 3000) in South Africa, but there are two main tribes that tend to dominate - the largest is Zulu, the second largest are the Xhosa. IsiZulu is South Africa's most widely spoken official language. The groom's father was Zulu and his mother was Xhosa, but it's a patriarchal culture so he is considered Zulu. Even for a lot of the South African's there, many had never been to a Zulu wedding, so it was a privilege to have been in attendance. 

As a member of Anna's "tribe," we waited patiently at a neighbors house down the road from the groom's parents, waiting for Awonke's tribe to come fetch her! They came singing and dancing down the road singing that Anna was their's! 

Really the best way to describe the day is by watching the compilation below. It includes a lot of singing and dancing. It ends with an impressive performance by the groom!

(Note: The groom's brother, Anelisa, was married a couple years ago, but they did not have a full Zulu celebration, so they celebrated his marriage at the same time. So there are co-grooms and co-brides in some of these photos.)

 The co-grooms! Awonke (left) and Anelisa (right).

The co-grooms! Awonke (left) and Anelisa (right).

 Aren't they beautiful? The co-brides in their first outfit change for the day! Belinda (left) and Anna (right). 

Aren't they beautiful? The co-brides in their first outfit change for the day! Belinda (left) and Anna (right). 

 The father of the bride after receiving his blanket! 

The father of the bride after receiving his blanket! 

Earlier in the week, the family had slaughtered a goat and a cow in honor of the festivities. In Zulu culture it symbolizes to the ancestors that a celebration is beginning. What I think is wonderful is that they use every part of the animal. The hide of the goat will be made into a rug for the newlyweds. The meat was served at the reception. They passed around a feast of bread, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, goat and beef on platters a plenty. I unfortunately didn't get a picture(?!). Shocking I know, I think I was just too excited to eat it! 

The ceremony was long – about 4 1/2 hours - but as you you could see in the video, it was mesmerizing. A large portion of the time was dedicated to gift giving. From the groom's family to the brides and vice versa. The gift of choice were blankets. Everyone gave everyone blankets. I'm not sure what the symbolism was behind it, except for general hospitality - and if you ever come to visit you know there will be extra blankets! 

 In the Zulu tradition, Anna had to put this necklace around Awonke's neck to make their marriage offish. 

In the Zulu tradition, Anna had to put this necklace around Awonke's neck to make their marriage offish. 

 The moment! 

The moment! 

Many of the elders in the family gave the newlyweds advice. Ranging from conjugal rights to not looking at your husband's phone, the topics proved entertaining!

 The elders had a front row view of the festivities.

The elders had a front row view of the festivities.

New Friends In Durban
 Met these fun ladies on the way to the bathroom!

Met these fun ladies on the way to the bathroom!

 Love them so much! 

Love them so much! 

We ended the evening celebrating the groom's birthday. Can you imagine a better way to spend your birthday?! 

 We are singing "Happy birthday" - can you tell?

We are singing "Happy birthday" - can you tell?

 Outfit change with a view! 

Outfit change with a view! 

 The only pic I have with both of them! 

The only pic I have with both of them! 

Bride Tribe

There is probably so much I missed, but I tried to do the celebrations justice. The weekend was so joyous and truly was a celebration of love!  I was honored to be involved. And I will end with this: 

"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." - Maya Angelou

Cheers to the newlyweds and their happily ever after. - AHS 

5 Things I Wish I Had Done To Stay Healthy While Traveling Abroad

birds of paradise durban south africa

While London was a case study in what to do right, South Africa was a study in my failings. Learn from my mistakes. Study up if you have a honeymoon in your near future! 

 

1. Put vanity aside, and get yourself a face mask.

Yes, I'm talking about those SARS masks. Really, the first tip is don't be too embarrassed to wear a face mask to protect you from other people's germs when you have a lot of travel ahead of you. I wish I had brought one, the man next to me on the plane was clearly very sick, and I know I caught a flu/cold from him. I don't think any of you will actually do it- but seriously, it's worth the embarrassment. If nothing more just have one on hand, just in case you need saving from Mr. Sniffles in the middle seat.

 

2. Skip the booze on the plane.

 Night one. We got down on some wine. 

Night one. We got down on some wine. 

While I don’t normally drink on flights- this was a lot of travel. 2 full days of it (the trip doesn't normally take this long, but longer than usual layovers plus delays made it so). I don't take sleeping pills or melatonin (doesn't help me) on planes, and a bit of wine can help knock me out. While that may be okay in a normal vacation scenario -  I went straight into wedding "party mode" when I arrived: a bachelorette party, a welcome party, a traditional wedding, and a Zulu wedding all consecutive days. If I had skipped booze on the plane,  I would have been in better shape for all the parties ahead. Instead, I was dehydrated, and it left my immune system a lil bit weaker than usual (which as you learned earlier, was not the best). 

 

 Glass half full <3

Glass half full <3

3. Make hydration a priority  

I repeatedly struggled to drink enough water, especially throughout wedding festivities (and I probably needed it the most then!). I had debated on bringing a big ole water bottle with me, but decided against it because my carry on was already approaching 30 lbs. In retrospect, I would've brought the bottle and left some books at home! 

 

4. Make time to meditate

As mentioned before, when I landed I went straight into wedding chaos. My first morning I had a bit of time, but instead of waking and doing my morning meditation, I let curiosity and excitement get the better of me and I went to go explore. Regrets, friends, regrets. That was the last opportunity I had for meditation for the next 3 days. Late nights, early mornings, and lots of parties prevented me from keeping up with my routine. While skipping these things are okay while on vacation- I missed out on good self care that would've served me well! I didn't let the habit lapse the whole trip though – after the wedding events ended I got back into my routine! :) 

 At the top of Lion's Head Mountain in Cape Town... perhaps not the safest meditation spot.&nbsp;

At the top of Lion's Head Mountain in Cape Town... perhaps not the safest meditation spot. 

5. Bring a pharmacy

I'm an experienced traveler, and I thought I was prepared, but I really was not. I had all my supplements with me, but no medicine. While I took special probiotics to prevent traveler's diarrhea, they didn't really work. I'm not exactly sure why, but regardless, I wish I had brought some Imodium in my kit. I also had menstrual cramps- Aleve, please. I had a fever (yes, I couldn't catch a break) - Ibuprofen was necessary. My sickness evolved into a cold/cough from h*ll - so I definitely needed some cold meds and throat lozenges. 

A lot of these goods were available at the local chemist, but I was not staying close to town for the first part of the trip. However, I was saved because I had friends who, unlike me, brought pharmacies with them. So moral of the story is to plan for the worst case scenario. The only thing worse than getting sick on vacation is not having meds to make you feel better. 

Side note: I'm a bit hippy dippy and when I'm at home. I try to not take medicine unless I really need it. I like to hydrate, rest, and let nature take it's course. However, in the case of vacation in far away places, this is the time to hop right off that high horse and take some meds. Your time away is short, and you want to savor these memories, not recalling how terrible you felt!


I hope these tips were helpful and you learned from my mistakes! What's the biggest travel fail you've ever experienced? Leave me a note in the comments below or on Insta! - AHS

 

Looking for more travel tips? Check out the posts below!