Chicken Zucchini Bites

Every time my husband searches for a recipe online he gets frustrated by blog posts that lead off with a three thousand word story that usually has nothing (or little) to do with the actual recipe being posted. He then is forced to scroll and scroll and scroll – through text and pictures – to the very bottom of the blog post where the actual recipe resides.

In deference to my husband, please see up front the super simple recipe for these super simple (and delicious!) chicken zucchini bites. You’re welcome.

(For those of you still looking for a story, keep reading!)

chicken zucchini bites | bearfamilystrong.com

Chicken Zucchini Bites

makes 12-15 bites

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 lb ground chicken

2 medium zucchini, grated

1/2 onion, grated

1 tbsp cumin (optional)

1-2 tsp garlic salt (to taste – I used Trader Joe’s garlic salt grinder)

black pepper, to taste

WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat oven to 375. Grate your zucchini and onion – I used a food processor and did both together. Once the vegetables are grated, wring out the excess moisture. I did this by dumping the veggies into a clean dishtowel and then squeezing all the extra water out. Trust me – this step is important if you want your zucchini bites to hold together!* In a bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Form 12-15 balls and place on a baking sheet – don’t beat yourself up too much if they look more like odd lumps, this is because of the stickiness of the dough. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

*NOTE: You don’t necessarily have to wring out the excess water from your zucchini/onion mixture, but if you don’t the meat “dough” will be super sticky and it will be much harder to form meatballs. When I first started playing around with these I did NOT wring them out and had to use muffin tins for the meatballs because I couldn’t get the mixture off my hands. That said, they still tasted delicious!

chicken zucchini bites | bearfamilystrong.com

There’s not much of a story to these cute little chicken zucchini bites really. Each week I like to have a few easy to grab, pre-cooked proteins on hand for work lunches or snacks, and some sort of meatball or patty usually makes an appearance. I had seem some version of chicken-zucchini meatballs on Pinterest and as it just so happened, I had ground chicken and zucchini in my fridge this week. Thus, these babies were born.

Because zucchini holds a lot of water (even after wringing most of it out), these meatballs stay moist, even after a couple of days in the fridge. They were delicious straight out of the oven (served with a side salad and topped with guacamole, as it happened), but they tasted just as good – if not better – served cold. Many times I find my turkey or beef meatballs can dry out pretty quickly but these retained the moisture from the zucchini, keeping them juicy and delicious. I packed two of them as a snack for my husband the other day and he liked them so much he turned around and finished off the rest with lunch.

Enjoy!

chicken zucchini bites | bearfamilystrong.com

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Whole30 Apple Pie – Maybe?

I’m a little squirmy about labeling this “recipe” Whole30 because of a little thing Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (co-creators of The Whole30) call “Sex with your Pants on (SWYPO).” Basically, the principle of the Whole30 is to reset your body by not eating any grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, or sugar for 30 days. Most of these are pretty simple, with the exception of one: sugar. On the Whole30, you aren’t allowed any sugar at all – to include things like honey, agave nectar, etc. We all have that dreaded Sugar Dragon – you know the guy, that little sneak who may or may not send you down to the kitchen at 0200 for a couple spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s. “Slaying the Sugar Dragon” is one of the hardest things to do – whether you’re doing a Whole30 or not. I could go on and on about the negative effects of sugar – but I’ll spare you.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 apple pie2

For the full explanation of SWYPO, refer to this article. Essentially, it can be summed up like this. Eating something that resembles a junk food – even if it’s made with Whole30 approved or natural ingredients – can still sometimes serve as a junk food. For example, take a look at these recipes:

Raspberry Caramel Chocolate Cups

Paleo Nutella Mud Cake

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

It’s true that these recipes all include paleo approved ingredients, but it’s still junk food no matter how you slice it. And there’s nothing wrong with eating any of these treats as long as you realize that you’re still eating junk food, albeit a healthier version. If you eat something like this every night, chances are that you have not slayed your Sugar Dragon. You’re just being nicer to him.

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However, the line between what is or is not SWYPO is fairly blurred, which Melissa Hartwig explains in this Instagram post:

Is this “apple pie snack mix” #SWYPO? TL;DR: This is one of those grey areas in which I demand that you take some personal responsibility. The long version:

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Technically, this combination of foods is #Whole30 compliant. There may even be specific situations in which this snack mix is appropriate for your Whole30, like a kid’s birthday party or dessert for a special dinner. If you’ve done the Whole30 enough (and live Whole30-ish in between), you may find a conscious, deliberate choice like this during your program is actually fine, and won’t wake your Sugar Dragon.

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But this is not most people, and likely not your context. Remember the Whole30 is about changing your habits and your emotional relationship with food. Including technically-approved-but-not-at-all-encouraged foods to satisfy your Sugar or Snack Dragon or fill an emotional hole during your program is not helping your cause.

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So why am I not ruling this explicitly off-limits during the Whole30? Some of you think I’m just going soft, and that the “old Melissa” would have banned snacks like this outright. That may have been true. But I would have been wrong.

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It’s not my job to dictate every nuance of your Whole30. I can’t do it for you, and I wouldn’t want to. There are grey areas in everything, including the Whole30. And it’s your job to step in where the official rules leave off, and decide what kind of an experience you want to have.

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Do you want to feed your Sugar Dragon with technically compliant treats for 30 days because it makes the program easier? Then go do that… and own the consequences. Do you want me to tell you, “Don’t eat that, it’s not right for you, you know this?” If you tweet at me, I might… but you already know the answer. You’re all big boys and girls, and it’s not going soft to say, “Here are my recommendations; now it’s up to you as grown-up people to make the right decision.”

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In summary, it’s YOUR program. OWN IT. #melissarants #toughlove #heavyonthelove

This recipe is from @popular_paleo, who has an excellent handle on both the Whole30 and her Sugar Dragon, gets that “context matters,” and encourages you to eat responsibly.

 

Well, that’s how I feel about this Apple Pie “recipe”. I’ve completed several successful Whole30’s and I don’t tend to have a huge sweet tooth in general, and so for me this is perfectly acceptable as a snack – it doesn’t send me screaming down the aisles of the grocery store for a Snickers bar, but it does satisfy me when I want a little something sweet. Plus, there isn’t any added sugar to it and as far as fruit goes, a green apple is one of your better options. Really the only reason I’m calling it Apple Pie is because that’s what the smell reminds me of.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 apple pie3

Whole30 “Apple Pie”

Ingredients:

1 small green apple

1 lemon wedge

Cinnamon

Instructions:

Core and slice your apple. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with lemon juice. To really experience the Apple Pie smell, add your apple slices to a ziplock baggie, squirt in the lemon and add your cinnamon, and then shake like crazy.

Voila!

Tostones (Twice Fried Plantains)

Let’s go to South America!

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones

When it comes to international travel, my tastes run more towards Eastern Europe than anywhere else. I studied several languages in high school and college, to include Russian, and I spent the first two years of my overseas career living in he gorgeous utopic country of Slovenia. Needless to say, the Balkans are near and dear to my heart. I’ve done extensive travel throughout Europe and I’ve seen my share of the Middle East, but interestingly enough the one language I’ve never studied is Spanish, nor have I traveled to any Latin American countries. I’ve recently decided that I need to remedy this, for one reason alone: the food.

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones

Oh, the food. Cuban sandwiches. Plantanos. Tostones. Mofongo. With the exception of the cuban sandwich I’d never before heard of any of these exotic dishes until recently, when I was introduced to a friend of my husband who hails from Puerto Rico. Just listening to him talk about the food makes my mouth water! It also made me want to try some of these dishes he was talking about, particularly the ones that involved plantains.

I can’t remember the first time I ever tried plantains, but boy do I love them! I shared a recipe for sweet fried plantains very early on, as you can tell my the horrible photography in that post. Plantains can be sweet or savory, depending on the ripeness of the plantain and how they are prepared. And they are ridiculously cheap – the grocery store where I do the majority of my shopping sells them for 2/$1.00, and ALDI sells them for .35 each! Major win.

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones

Having already tried my hand at sweet fried plantains and savory fried plantains, I decided to try my hand at Tostones. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the word comes from the spanish verb tostar, which means “to toast”. Literally, they are plantain slices that are fried once, smashed thin, and then fried again.  Kevin and I both tried our hand at smashing the plantains – apparently there is a special tool called a tostonera, which is used to smash the plantains thin, but we just used the bottom side of a regular old plate and it worked just fine – and we found out that while my plantains tended to end up on the thicker side, Kevin mashed his a lot thinner, so they turned out crispier and more like chips. Interestingly enough, once they were fried up we found out each of us liked the other’s way better!

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones

These make a great snack just eaten like chips, but they taste even better when topped with pork carnitas, green salsa, and some avocado pieces. Yum.

TOSTONES (Twice Fried Plantains)

serves: 2

prep time: 10 min

cook time: 20 min

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

2-3 unripe (green) plantains, peeled and cut into one inch pieces

olive oil

salt

small bowl of tepid salt water

WHAT YOU’LL DO:

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a deep skillet. You don’t want to completely cover the plantains in oil, you just want a thin layer on the pan. Once the oil is hot, fry the plantain pieces for a few minutes, making sure each side is nicely browned. Set aside on paper towels to dry, but don’t turn off your pan of oil. Using the bottom of a plate or other flat, sturdy object, smash the plantain with decent force – you want a thin plantain slice. NOTE: I would recommend using a metal flipper to peel the plantain from the plate; otherwise it might fall apart. Dip the plantain into the bowl of water and set on paper towel to dry slightly. (This keeps the plantains crispy, and maintains their color during frying.) Then re-fry the plantains in your hot oil for about two minutes on each side. Blot the tostones on another paper towel, sprinkle liberally with salt, and serve immediately.

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones