Paleo Lemon-Thyme Chicken
During the last year of my doctorate, I started to develop insomnia. It’s easy to imagine why: I was finishing the lab portion of my research, taking classes, teaching, and writing my dissertation. I was on campus 12+ hours a day, drinking espresso to keep going, and not eating regular meals.
There was little time for self-care since I was working 7 days a week. Sleep? Fuggedaboutit.
There came the days where, even though I was tired, I couldn’t fall asleep no matter how blindingly exhausted I was. It was like I was stumbling through a cloud of exhaustion all day, but the moment my head hit the pillow, my eyes would pop open and I would be wide awake.
Some night I would lay in bed all.freaking.night. Other times I would drift off about 1 am, wake up at 4 am like clock work, then drift off again only have to drag myself out of bed at 6 am.
Eating Paleo foods was not enough to help me recover. Too much was going on that was detrimental to my health.
I did my own research to discover what could be going on.
I tried to tackle the emotional component by keeping a journal to get my worries out, I stopped drinking caffeinated drinks, tried to go to bed the moment I felt tired instead of pushing through to the second wind I would get after 10:30, but even then it was still a struggle.
I went to the doctor who said it was all in my head and I needed to keep journaling and could take up to 80 mg of melatonin to sleep, but I didn’t sleep even after taking a small dose of melatonin and as I titrated up to larger doses I felt shaky which freaked me out.
After researching and reading a lot (such as this book, this book, this book, this book, and this book) I learned about adrenal fatigue. I began reading about homeopathic remedies and learned about adrenal fatigue. After reading several books, taking adaptogenic herbs, and most importantly, after finishing my doctorate, I started sleeping again.
One thing that ended up being the greatest help, however, was ASMR videos on YouTube.
ASMR stands for automic sensory meridian response. Basically, it’s a tingling, calming sensation that one can experience while listening to certain sounds and visuals. Different sounds can be ASMR triggers for each person. I prefer listening to gentle voices, especially with non-American accents, plastic crinkling, and the sound of hair being brushed.
I created a playlist of my favorite content creators and would play it on my phone so it would lull me to sleep. If I woke up in the middle of the night, the videos would be playing still and I would listen to them until I fell back to sleep at night. I would also take a breather throughout the day and listen to short videos, sort of like a meditation.
Eventually, between finishing my degree, staying on a sleep schedule, taking my adaptogenic herbs, eating Paleo foods, journaling my worries, cutting caffeine, gentle exercise, and the ASMR videos, I started to sleep.
To this day, sleep pattern is easily disturbed though, so I must be vigilant.
Long story short, today’s recipe was inspired by an ASMR video!
One of my favorite ASMRtists is Gentle Whispering ASMR, and she recently did a video sponsored by Blue Apron. She made chicken with a lemon pan sauce and couscous with roasted Brussels sprouts. I decided to make my own interpretation of the chicken dish, substituting arrowroot starch for the flour.
I like how the arrowroot starch makes a light coating on the chicken, and the bright and lemony sauce is balanced by earthy thyme.
If you want to do a French-themed Paleo dinner, this dish would be lovely. Add some green veggies and mashed or riced cauliflower and you will have an elegant meal.
If you drink wine, I can’t help suggest a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, even if you want a French meal. I recently had this one which has lemongrass and tropical fruit notes and I think it would be really fresh in these last days of summer and is bright enough to go with the lemon in the chicken. Other suggestions: unoaked Chardonnay from Sonoma Russian River or Loire Valley, Grenache blanc blend from Côtes du Rhône, Spanish Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, or white Burgundy. Lots of options.
By the way, if you want some more ASMRtists to listen to, here are some of my other favorites:
Also, the few months after finishing my dissertation I wrote about dealing with adrenal fatigue, and you can find that post here.
- 2 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 1/2 lb chicken breast (1 large chicken breast cut into 2 fillets)
- 2 tbsp avocado or light olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly cracked open
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- Pinch of dried thyme or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
- 1. Place the arrowroot on a plate and season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge both sides of the chicken, shaking off the excess.
- 2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown on the first side. Flip and reduce heat to medium to brown on the second side and cook the meat through. Set the chicken aside.
- 3. Add shallot to the pan drippings and cook until translucent. Add broth, garlic, thyme, and lemon juice and cook until the cloves of garlic are tender. Remove garlic and if you used thyme on sprigs, remove the sprigs. Add butter and stir into the pan sauce.
- 4. Return chicken to the pan sauce. Coat on both sides with the sauce. Serve immediately, spooning sauce over the chicken.
- Serving suggestion: serve with mashed or riced cauliflower to soak up the pan sauce.