In elementary school, I planned out all my Valentine’s weeks in advance (who was going to get which Disney princess card was very important) and fantasized about who would be my secret admirer. In my adolescent and early twenties, the roses, chocolates, gifts, cards, and surprises were affirmation that my current beau truly cared about me. In my late twenties, I now know the greatest love is the one we can give ourselves and a good man shows you how much he appreciates you not through material things but through patience, companionship, loyalty, and acceptance(though I could always go for something sparkly 😉 ). But I’m still a romantic, and Valentine’s Day being the “most romantic day of the year,” is is still a fun excuse to come up with some date night ideas, treat myself to some self-care, and eat (more) dark chocolate.
I love getting dressed up and enjoying a night out. But sometimes staying in can feel so much more intimate and romantic without all the Valentine’s Day dinner crowds. Converting your dining room into a date night is fun and pretty easy to do. Light a few candles, put on your favorite red dress, play some relaxing music, create a beautiful table setting, and whip up this delicious, clean eating, low carb, (almost) paleo Almond Crusted Chicken Parmesan recipe.
My boyfriend ordered Chicken Parmesan when we went to lunch a couple weeks ago. I tried a bite and it brought back so many comforting memories of my childhood. It got me thinking. How I could convert a normal gut-busting, insulin-spiking recipe into something just as delicious but much healthier and easy on my digestive system?
I’ve made paleo breaded chicken before, so I knew how well almond pairs with chicken. But I wanted to give it more texture. To add crunch, I swapped the almond and coconut flours for chopped almonds seasoned with aromatic thyme, basil, and garlic. I chose convenience over perfection and used Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato Basil Marinara which has minimal ingredients and no added sugar, but is not paleo. To make this recipe entirely paleo, you can make your own sauce with a simple recipe like this one. Instead of traditional pasta noodles, I used my recent obsession, spaghetti squash. It’s stringy texture is the perfect healthy, low-carb, nutrient-dense, gluten-free swap for spaghetti. This recipe is also dairy-free since I left out any cheese but you can add traditional or a vegan version of parmesan and/or mozzarella on top of the chicken if you like. Just don’t forget to add it in to your fat servings if you’re following the Life in Spandex Eat Guide!
Healthy Almond Crusted Chicken Parmesan
4 small chicken breasts, or 2 cut in half (about 20 oz)
1/2 – 3/4 cup almonds
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tbsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 – 2 cups Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato Basil Marinara
1 medium spaghetti squash
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a big baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine almonds, paprika, thyme, basil, salt, and garlic powder in a blender or food processor until the almonds are in little pieces.
3. Pour almond mixture into a shallow, medium bowl.
4. Pour the egg into another shallow mixing bowl.
5. Take one piece of chicken, dip it into the egg, fully coating it. Then dip it into the almond mixture, fully coating the chicken again. Pat the mixture into the chicken as you coat it. Repeat for the other 3 pieces of chicken.
6. Place chicken breasts on the baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked through. Optional: to give the almonds a little extra toast, set the oven to Broil and bake for 2 minutes or until the almonds are slightly more golden brown.
7. While the chicken is cooking, stab the outside of the spaghetti squash with a small, sharp knife – about 10 to 15 times spread out around the whole surface area of the squash. Place in the microwave for 15 minutes.
8. When the spaghetti squash is done, take out with oven mitts, it’ll be hot! Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before you cut it in half. Use a fork to scrape out the seeds and toss them in the trash/compost. Continue using a fork to scrape out all the squash. Place aside in a big mixing bowl and toss with warmed marinara sauce (you can warm it on the stove or in the microwave).
9. Put the spaghetti squash on a plate and top with almond crusted chicken. Optional: top with mozzarella or parmesan cheese.
10. Eat and enjoy with your sweetie!
LIS Servings (without cheese): 1 fat, 1/2 carbs, 1 1/4 protein
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Do you prefer to eat in or go out for date nights? What’s your favorite dish to cook for your Valentine?
Health and happiness,