cheddar & saltine cracker baked chicken tenders (with quick & easy aioli dipping sauce)

cheddar and saltine cracker chicken tenders via she likes to eat
there are a few basic recipes that i am constantly looking to better or to perfect and chicken tenders have long been one. lately i have been making them more often, since we have a preschooler and a toddler running our lives these days and they are a great go-to for easy & healthy meals. i much prefer making them myself when i can, instead of the freezer chicken tenders & nuggets that truthfully scare me a little. every chicken tender i have made in the past has been just ok, “neither here nor there”. i’ve made some with breadcrumbs and some with panko. i’ve tried lots of different ways to bread them – with buttermilk, with whole milk, or with eggs, breaded once or twice… but i still had not found my favorite tenders that were perfectly crunchy, yet moist, and held their breading all over without falling off during baking. and i still had the problem of the breading getting mushy on the underside.

well, after many tests & tastings & tweakings i can safely say i am forever free from chicken tender mediocrity!
i have finally mastered the elusive perfect homemade chicken tender.
(and the crowd stands up and cheers like crazy:)

i used a mix of ground cheddar crackers and saltine crackers as the breading, which gives it the perfect flavor and crunch on the outside. i also baked the tenders on all-metal drying rack (used mostly for cooling cookies or pies) on top of a baking sheet – this ensured no soggy business on the underside of the tenders. (this was the most exciting part of my week. seriously.)

as for the dipping sauce: i have 2 all-time favorite aioli recipes in my arsenal – the recipe below is my super quick and easy version that uses ingredients i always have on hand. aioli is my favorite dipping sauce for chicken tenders and complements these really well. if you can stand to turn down the ketchup, i promise, it’s worth it.

cheddar & saltine cracker baked chicken tenders
adapted via just a taste
serves 4-6

ingredients

1 3/4 lbs chicken tenders (or chicken breasts, sliced into tenders)

3 cups cheez-it crackers (or similar cheddar cracker), or make them homemade

1 cup oyster cracker/soup-style saltines (or broken up regular size saltines)

3 eggs

3 tbsp dijon mustard

3/4 cup flour

olive oil cooking spray

directions

1. preheat oven to 475. position rack in lower third of oven.

2. place an all-metal drying rack on a large cookie sheet. spray or brush drying rack with olive oil.

3. in a food processor or blender, grind cheddar and saltine crackers until finely ground then place in a wide & shallow bowl. in another bowl, whisk the eggs and dijon mustard. then place the flour in a third wide & shallow bowl.

4. with each chicken tender, dip it first into the flour, shaking off excess. then dip into egg/dijon mixture and then into the cracker mixture, pressing crumbs onto the tender making sure it’s evenly coated. repeat with remaining tenders. place the tenders an inch or two apart on the metal rack on the cookie sheet (see picture above).

5. bake for 14-16 minutes, until they are beginning to golden. serve warm with aioli dipping sauce.

 

quick & easy aioli dipping sauce
makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise (duke’s is my favorite)

2 cloves finely minced garlic

1/2 tsp worcestershire

1/2 tsp lemon juice

directions

mix all ingredients together with a whisk until completely incorporated.

enjoy!

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asian chicken lettuce cups

asian chicken lettuce cups

during the winter, there is a lot of chili-and-cornbread-eating, curl-up-with-a-hot-bowl-of-soup nights around here. i love the warmth and the fullness of my belly after a big bowl.
but after a few months of this loveliness, i do crave a fresh, crisp, even crunchy dinner. and recently, it was these chicken lettuce cups.

if you’re like me, you first fell in love with this concept after discovering the chicken lettuce cup at p.f. chang’s. i’ve always loved their version of the dish, but this recipe is by leaps and bounds the best i have ever made myself and the best i have ever eaten. i might even like them better than p.f. chang’s.
sorry, p.

(you can also serve this dish sans the lettuce cups and with rice instead. i used a white jasmine rice as the bed for the chicken filling a few times and it is delicious, and a little heartier.)

*to make this recipe whole30 friendly: for the dipping sauce, sub coconut aminos for the soy sauce, sub pure date syrup for the brown sugar, omit the cornstarch, and make sure there is no added sugar in your OJ.

asian chicken lettuce cups
adapted from the family chef cookbook by jewels & jill elmore

ingredients

the filling:
2 lbs ground chicken (you could also use turkey)

2 tbsp peanut oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 large carrots, peeled and shredded or finely chopped

4 green onions, finely chopped

2 tsp ground ginger

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 small can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

the sauce:
1 cup soy sauce

4 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar

4 tbsp orange juice

4 tbsp brown sugar

4 tbsp water

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp chili flakes

for serving: 2 heads of iceberg lettuce, washed & leaves peeled into cups

directions

1. for the sauce, mix all sauce ingredients together with a whisk and set aside.

2. heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. when the pan is hot, add the peanut & sesame oils. saute the carrots, green onions, ginger, and garlic for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables have softened. add chicken and cook, stirring constantly to break up the meat.

3. when the chicken is almost cooked, add the sauce. bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking 5 or 6 minutes.

4. remove pan from heat, stir in water chestnuts. spoon the mixture into lettuce cups and serve while warm.

enjoy!

(photo above is from the family chef cookbook. because, let’s be honest.. i could NOT for the life of me get the lettuce cups to cooperate.)

baked parmesan romano chicken


this is my favorite, all-time, go-to recipe for chicken parmesan (courtesy martha stewart magazine, years ago, and as usual edited by yours truly just a bit). it is light and crunchy, thanks to the panko breading (my edit, sorry martha) and has so much delicious, italian flavor.
it’s probably the red wine vinegar… i’ll eat almost anything if it has red wine vinegar in it. or on it.

it is perfectly paired with a simply dressed pasta or – as recommended by martha herself – arugula, tomatoes, blanched green beans, and crumbled parmesan cheese topped with olive oil & vinegar.

baked crisp parmesan-romano chicken
serves 4

ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking sheet

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp coarse salt

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

3  lbs chicken breasts, pounded to flatten just a bit

1 cup panko (if you can’t find panko, you can sub plain breadcrumbs)

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
directions

1. preheat oven to 400.

2. in a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic. pour into a large ziploc bag. add chicken to bag, seal, and let marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

2. in a medium , shallow bowl stir together panko, cheeses, parsley, and pepper with a fork. line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. oil lining (i highly recommend a spray olive oil – much easier & cleaner).

3. dredge each chicken piece in panko mixture to coat; shake off excess. transfer to prepared baking sheet.

4. bake chicken until cooked through, 45-50 minutes. using a spatula, loosen chicken from sheet to serve.

enjoy!

baked lemon garlic chicken with thyme + oregano

baked lemon garlic chicken with thyme + oregano | via she likes to eat

this recipe is adapted from the ever-brilliant barefoot contessa. she’s got such a knack for easy, flavorful dishes. i have gently edited this recipe for i how i tend to cook… using a little less olive oil and making sure all of the lemons got used and not wasted. and giving an option for those of you who would rather cook with chicken stock instead of wine.

it has a bright, delicious taste and is pretty easy to make, perfect for a weeknight meal. and it’s one that i know everyone is sure to like.

baked lemon garlic chicken
(serves 4)

ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

8-9 cloves minced garlic

1/3 cup dry white wine (like a pinot grigio) or chicken stock

3 lemons* (zest 2 and then juice both; set 3rd aside)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (just pull leaves off stem)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

salt & freshly cracked pepper

directions

1. preheat the oven to 400.

2. warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute – don’t allow garlic to brown. remove from heat and add the white wine (or stock), lemon zest, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1/2 tsp salt. whisk and set aside.

3. pat the chicken breasts dry and brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. place them in a 9×13 baking dish that has been lightly coated on the bottom with olive oil or cooking spray.

4. pour sauce over the chicken breasts in the baking dish. cut the third lemon into 8-10 wedges and nestle among & between chicken breasts.

5. bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is slightly browned. remove pan from the oven. cover dish tightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. serve hot with pan juices and lemon garlic spaghetti.

creamy baked chicken taquitos



for a long time, i was unable to find a really good taquito recipe that did not involve frying. they are always fried (traditionally) and i am just not the frying type.
no thank you.
so i came across this one and was excited to try it, although i was a little skeptical.
but it said “creamy” so i was in.
and i wasn’t disappointed. these are wonderful!
they disappeared pretty fast in my house.
there is an option to freeze extras at the bottom of the recipe. i froze about half of the taquitos and was thinking that they would be perfect for lunch for the next week.
they were gone within 24 hours.

creamy baked chicken taquitos

ingredients

3 oz. cream cheese, softened (reduced fat is fine) – see note at the bottom
1/3 cup salsa verde
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 2 tsp jarred minced garlic)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp chopped green onions (i didn’t have these on hand, so i omitted)
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (follow directions or use leftover chicken if you already have some)
1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
8-12 (6 inch) corn tortillas
salt & pepper
cooking spray

directions

to prepare the chicken:
preheat the oven to 375. spread a piece of foil across a baking sheet, and arrange 2 chicken breasts in a single layer in the center. sprinkle both sides with salt & pepper, and season as you wish. fold the foil over the chicken and enclose to form a packet. bake the chicken on the baking sheet 35-45 minutes, or until cooked through.

to make taquitos:
1. preheat the oven to 425 and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. in a large bowl, combine the cream cheese with the salsa, lime juice, cumin, chile powder, cayenne, onion powder, garlic, cilantro, scallions, and 1/4 tsp salt. fold in the shredded chicken and cheeses. taste and season with additional salt & pepper if necessary.

3. working 3 tortillas at a time, stack them on a microwave plate or in between 2 paper towels and cook 30 seconds or until the tortillas are soft and pliable. spoon about 2 tbsp of chicken filling onto the lower third of each tortilla and roll tightly. place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. repeat with remaining filling & tortillas.

4. spray the taquitos lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with a bit of salt. bake 10-15 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden-brown. serve with salsa, guacamole and/or sour cream (my personal favorite one to dip them in).

**to freeze:
prepare the taquitos, but before baking, place the baking sheet in the fridge until the taquitos are completely cold. wrap 1-4 taquitos in a piece of plastic wrap  and freeze. to bake, unwrap taquitos and cook in a 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes (no need to thaw first).

**another note: i’m pretty sure i wasn’t paying too much attention that night for some reason and i put the whole block of cream cheese in, instead of just the 3 ounces. needless to say, my taquitos ROCKED. so my oops could be your gain. you are welcome.

enjoy!

photo & recipe via

santa fe chicken tacos (crockpot)



i made this a few months back (and have made it several times since) and completely forgot to share it with y’all! a good friend reminded me of it yesterday and it just may be going in the crockpot this week.

now, if you know me, you know that in my past i have not been an avid crockpot user. just never really got into it. but in october, i dusted the thing off (seriously, it had been used twice since we got married in 2003, i think) and i am IN. the cold weather just made it sound so lovely… a warm meal cooking all day and making my house smell like i RULE???!! yes please.

crockpot santa fe chicken

ingredients

1.5 lbs chicken breasts (about 3)
1 (14.4 oz) can rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 (15 oz) can black beans
1 cup (8 oz) frozen corn
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 (14.4 oz) can chicken broth
3 scallions, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper (if you’re making this for kiddos too, omit this)
salt & pepper

directions

combine the chicken broth, beans, corn, rotel, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne (if using) and salt & pepper (to taste – i used 3-4 grinds on my s&p mill) in the crockpot. season chicken breasts with salt and lay on top. cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.
half an hour before serving, remove the chicken and shred with 2 forks. return chicken to crockpot and stir in.
serve in tortillas or over rice (idea: make white rice and chop up some more cilantro and mix together). top with cheese, sour cream and/or salsa.
enjoy!

recipe via
photo via 

chicken enchiladas – red sauce version



oh, enchiladas!
where would we be in life without enchiladas!?  i would be in a sad, dark place for sure.

now usually you’ll find chicken enchiladas with a verde or tomatillo sauce, which is what i always order at any mexican restaurant. but these are such a lovely departure from the standard. and oh so yummy.

this recipe is a result of two or three different recipes (see bottom for sources) that i used to make it my own. i tweaked it until it was perfect. it is probably the best enchilada plate i have had, maybe ever, and i highly recommend you make it. right now.

chicken enchiladas with red chile sauce

ingredients

1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (you can leave in the seeds if you want some extra heat)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (2 swirls around the pan)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 can rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles (do not drain)
4.5 oz. can diced green chiles (do not drain)
1 lb./2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (*or you can use about 2 cups pre-cooked rotisserie chicken)
1 cup extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (plus more for garnish)
10-12 corn tortillas
4 oz. sour cream (half of a small container)

directions

1. preheat oven to 400. shred cheeses and toss together in a bowl – set aside. grease a 9×13 baking dish.

2. put oil in a large saucepan on medium/medium-low heat. add in onion, jalapeño, and 1/2 tsp salt. stirring often, cook until the onions & jalapenos have softened, about 5-8 minutes. add garlic and cook about 30-60 seconds, to soften. add chili powder, cumin, and sugar and cook another 30 seconds or so. stir in the tomato sauce, water, rotel, and green chiles. bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. (*if you are using rotisserie chicken, let the sauce cook another 10-15 minutes or so, then move on to #3.) nestle the chicken into the sauce. reduce heat to low, cover & cook 10-12 minutes. flip chicken breasts over, and continue to cook 10-12 minutes more. transfer chicken to a plate and set aside to cool.

3. strain the sauce mixture through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. transfer the onions to a large bowl and set aside. add 4 oz. sour cream to the sauce and whisk until lumps have disappeared.

4. with two forks, shred the cooked chicken breasts. add cooked chicken to the onion mixture, and add 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup of cheese, and the cilantro. toss to combine. wrap tortillas in a paper towel and soften in the microwave for about 45 seconds. on a clean surface or large plate, spoon 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla. tightly roll each enchilada and lay seam-side down in the baking dish. pour sauce evenly on top and then cover with remaining cheese.

5. cover the dish with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. remove foil and cook another 5-7 minutes, until the cheese has browned. remove from the oven and let stand about 10 minutes before digging in. top each serving with freshly chopped cilantro.

enjoy!

recipe via here & here, photo via