Delicious and Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders

Last week, I tried some delicious and gluten-free chicken tenders. While I prefer preparing fresh food, sometimes I’m a less-than-perfect planner. I get caught up in work and before I know it, I’m too hungry and just need something to eat. For those moments, I like to keep a few partially or fully prepared foods on hand.

Choosing those foods is fun because it gives me an opportunity to explore new or different gluten-free products that are on the market. Often, the search more satisfying than the consumption. Over the 17 years I’ve been gluten-free, there has been improvement in the selection and availability of convenience foods. But there’s still no guarantee those products will be palatable. I can’t help but open each new package with a bit of trepidation.

I will enthusiastically say, there is no need for hesitancy with Bell&Evans® Air Chilled Gluten Free Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders. They are the best frozen chicken tenders I’ve ever eaten!

There are many reasons for this. First, they are made from chicken – not chopped or separated chicken parts and fillers. Next, they’re flash fried to set the breading but remain uncooked until you cook them. Third, they’ve been marinated in a sea salt brine.

Additionally, the breading is a very thin coating that lets the moist, tender chicken be the star. It consists of rice flour, water, yellow corn flour, sea salt, xanthan gum, dried whole eggs, yeast, cane sugar, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder that has been set by flash frying in organic expeller pressed soybean oil.

Because the tenders have not been previously cooked, it is important that they reach a safe internal temperature. To that end, the tenders can be pan fried, air fried or oven baked. Once they are golden brown, I’ve served them alone as an entrée and atop a salad. They are large enough for a sandwich as well.

For small fingers, you can choose gluten free chicken nuggets rather than tenders. The nuggets are made from chicken breast meat without fillers and breaded with the same ingredients.

Bell&Evans products can be found at Whole Foods and Fresh Market in my area. To locate their products where you live, there’s a zip code search on the company’s website. Not all products will be gluten-free so be sure to read the descriptions carefully before purchasing.

My experience was so good, I’m planning to sample the Bell&Evans meatballs as well. If those are good, I’ll consider the chicken burgers.

It’s always great when food exceeds your expectations. These chicken tenders did that and raised the bar. Not only will I add them to my set of regular options, they’ll replace every chicken tender brand I’ve previously ordered.

I hope this week’s discoveries turn out as well for me and for you! Happy gluten-free exploring!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Navigating a Loss of Taste and Smell

Many people are currently navigating a loss of taste and smell. For some the cause is COVID-19. For others it may be chemotherapy or a different virus. I experienced such a loss following a virus a few years ago. It took almost a year for my sense of smell to return to mostly normal. I say mostly because I still encounter days when things seem just a little bit off. Although they’re now rare, it is still disconcerting when it happens.

For those of you who are not regaining these senses quickly, there are treatments available and one of those can be done at home. Olfactory training is a treatment used to encourage smell fibers to start working again. You can begin it at any time.

Choose items already in your home and smell them, slowly mastering each smell and then moving to another. I’d probably start with coffee, vinegar, vanilla, and oil of oregano. I might also bury my nose in the autumn scented candle I can’t get enough of. This process stimulates the olfactory nerve and hopefully encourages the body to create new neural pathways.

Don’t be alarmed if some things smell wrong or foul for quite some time. This is the symptom that lingers for me. Certain items sometimes smell spoiled when they’re not. For some people, everything may taste like bananas for a day. There’s really no predicting the exact experience. Just know, you’re not losing your mind.

And if not being able to taste is causing you to lose your appetite, there’s a new cookbook from Life Kitchen called Taste & Flavour. Those with a keen eye may have noticed the u in Flavour and already guessed that the chefs who developed these recipes live in the UK. But don’t worry about converting currency. The book can be downloaded for free.

The chefs consulted with scientists, researchers, and patients to create recipes that add sensory excitement. Part of that formula is to appeal to the eyes by using bright colors. They also use texture and foods like pineapple that stimulate the trigeminal nerve. Other foods like soy sauce and mushrooms are included to stimulate saliva and boost other flavors in a dish.

You may have to alter the way you cook for a while. Or you may find that your preferences have changed. Any changes bring an opportunity to explore a variety of new food combinations you might not have considered before.

For most, the senses of taste and smell will return eventually. Until they do, olfactory training and specialized recipes can help you navigate the twists and turns that come with an altered sense of perception. We may not have normal, but we’re continually gaining new resources and I love that!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Are Artisanal Foods Better?

Are artisanal foods better? To label a food artisan or artisanal, makes it sound handcrafted and traditional invoking the idea of homemade. And because there is no labeling standard for artisanal in the US, marketers are free to use the term liberally.

When it comes to commercially produced, packaged, and distributed foods, the term is often meaningless. It is possible that a particular product is produced in smaller batches or grown from heirloom seeds, but it is unlikely that it is truly grown or made by hand in the way it would have been before 1950.

A recent, quick search on a grocery website showed hundreds of foods tagged with the keyword artisan whether or not that word appeared on the label. Within these foods, I found everything from lettuce to plantain chips to mass-produced tortilla chips. Some of the foods were clearly not artisanal. Free-for-all labeling makes it difficult to determine which foods are artisanal and which are not.

If you’re concerned about what you’re ingesting, labeling standards in the US often leave much to be desired. So here’s my take. Artisanal food produced by large food conglomerates and distributed through large chain stores can only be expected to meet the quality standard you have for processed food.

These products may taste good and have a relatively pleasing texture, but that may be because of additives. It is not necessarily a reflection of higher quality ingredients, smaller batches, or more human attention. I would not consider these foods better than any other processed food. That doesn’t mean I automatically avoid foods labeled artisanal. It just means I don’t put a lot of stock in the idea that they are any better quality than any other packaged food.

When it comes to fresh foods, I might choose to purchase an interesting artisanal lettuce, but I would not believe that it equals the freshness and food value of the lettuce I grow in my back yard. And I would not pay extra for it just because of the label.

With all of that said, is it possible that you will find artisanal cheese at your famers market that is better than commercially produced cheese…yes! Is it possible that your local bakery hand kneads bread…yes! Is it possible that a local restaurant makes the creamiest yogurt you’ve ever tasted in small batches on top of their freezer…yes! Are these artisanal foods better? Yes! They’re fresher, more likely to have less additives, and they have been tended by someone who can adjust ingredients and techniques as needed to produce a superior product.

When I reflect, I realize that I prepare food much like an artisan. I prefer to do many things by hand or with a minimum of automated tools. It’s not that I like extra work. I just don’t want lots of gadgets cluttering my workspace. And I feel like I would spend more time cleaning automated tools than I do making something by hand.

I also like working with my hands in the kitchen much like I enjoy putting my hands in the dirt in the garden. There’s something satisfying and fulfilling about the sensory experience of hand preparation. The sound of a carrot yielding to a knife is much more pleasing than the sound of a food processor. I love overpowering a butternut squash or watermelon. And when I squeeze an orange with my hands, the yummy smell of the juice permeates my skin.

Is my food artisanal? I don’t really think of it that way. And yet when I get it right, I appreciate the same things about my dishes that I appreciate about any other artisan’s. And I value taking a bite that for a moment is the best thing I’ve ever tasted! Isn’t that what we all hope to savor – those bites that are the best?

In spite of the difficulty in identifying foods that fit the definition, truly artisanal foods probably are better.

Promote Calmness Through Food

It’s a good day to promote calmness through food. For lots of people in my state, it’s a hard day to be calm. Our basketball team plays in the Elite Eight tonight. They’ve been a bit of a heart attack team in the tournament so far, making it impossible to calmly lounge on the couch and watch. Could the snacks we choose for the game help quell our anxiety?

I’m not going to pretend that only a handful of almonds tonight will slow our heartbeats when we’re trailing by 10. That’s not how wellness through food generally works. But skipping the sugary, carb-filled food and beverages can help diminish the jittery feeling caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels.

That doesn’t mean you have to go snack free to reduce anxiety. A handful of crunchy raw almonds or sunflower seeds will provide magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to increase anxiety-related behaviors.

Spinach is also a source of magnesium as are Swiss chard, legumes, other seeds and nuts, and whole grains. You may not want to eat a spinach salad during the game, but spinach dip could hit the spot. You could even serve it with bean-based tortilla chips.

Some experts recommend foods rich in B vitamins to reduce anxiety. That makes guacamole another great gameday snack food. Or serve layer dip with beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cheese, green onions, and tomatoes.

Pickles are probiotics that have been linked to lower social anxiety. A plate of crunchy dill pickles will be a welcome addition to your coffee table fare.  Another option is pickled asparagus. You’ll get probiotic benefits coupled with the anti-anxiety properties of asparagus.

And while you’re gathering snacks, don’t forget one of our family favorites – deviled eggs. Foods rich in zinc, like eggs, have also been linked to lower levels of anxiety.

Gluten-free diet followers will be pleased to learn that low anxiety dessert is in the offing. Buckwheat and quinoa are high in magnesium as well as B vitamins. And dark chocolate provides both magnesium and antioxidants. More antioxidants can mean less anxiety. A buckwheat chocolate cookie sweetened with dates, honey, or coconut crystals is the perfect dessert combination for game day.

If you don’t have time to bake, a bowl of fresh berries topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg is a refreshing addition to an antioxidant-filled menu.

And when it’s not game day, all of these foods will still help reduce anxiety. Many are effective for lessening depression as well.

A balanced diet filled with fresh food and plenty of water will give your body the support it needs to function properly. This can go a long way toward building physical and mental and emotional resiliency. I need to get started snacking now so that I’ll have the stamina to watch the game…calmly.