With the calendar rolling over into a new year, I had the goal in mind to be better at planning meals for my family. Specific meals with fresh ingredients and all made from scratch. I find I spend much less at the grocery store and with having a meal plan, there's not the temptation of eating out knowing I have food sitting at home needing to be used.
I sat down in December and poured over websites and wrote out a two week menu plan that included breakfast, lunch and dinner. I intentionally included the calorie count for each meal too (including snacks) as we're trying to become a bit more fit in our household. I printed out the meal plan spreadsheet, printed out all the recipes, hole punched all and put in a three ring binder. I then made the grocery list accordingly.
Do I stick to the exact menu for each day? I sure don't. For example, last Sunday we were supposed to have roasted chicken for dinner (aka afternoon lunch, but on Sunday's we call it dinner...I know, weird, but that's the way I was raised) and for the evening meal we were going to have bbq pulled chicken sandwiches made from the leftover chicken from dinner. But we had enough leftovers from the previous couple days that it made an eclectic meal of which no one needed to cook and freed up a few precious minutes in the afternoon before I had to head back to work/church. So I still have a chicken sitting in my freezer for another meal in the week. And it leaves flexibility if what's on the menu doesn't sound good that night (or I'm so tired after working all day the last thing I want to do is be in the kitchen for an hour), I can use another nights meal as I have all ingredients sitting waiting to be used in my fridge.
Moving on to last night. It was slotted to be bbq chicken tenders with carrots, ranch dressing and a side of pita chips. I didn't have chicken tenders, but easily cut up chicken breasts to substitute. I didn't have bread crumbs, but easily threw some whole wheat bread in the food processor to crumb it and then put the crumbs in the oven to bake while the chicken was marinating.
I also didn't have pita chips (or pita bread) nor did I have ranch dressing. But those stories and recipes I will leave for future posts.
Here's the bbq chicken tender recipe I used courtesy of Eating Well. Click on the recipe link if you would like a printer friendly version.
These yummy, easy morsels were given three out of four thumbs up at the table. The little miss said they were too spicy (due to the bbq sauce, which is an easy fix for the future). I would have taken a picture, but we still have yet to replace our camera that someone must have desperately needed and helped themselves to via a smashed window out of my husbands car. Anywhoooo, here's the recipe:
BBQ Chicken Tenders
1 cup prepared barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders (see Note)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I substituted whole wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups coarse dry breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat (see Note)
Olive oil or canola oil cooking spray
1. Combine barbecue sauce, mustard and honey in a large bowl. Set aside 1/2 cup of the sauce in a small bowl. Cut any large chicken tenders in half lengthwise, then add all the tenders to the large bowl with the remaining sauce; stir to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
3. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in another shallow dish. Place breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish. Coat each tender in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in egg and let any excess drip off. Then roll in the breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess. Place the tenders on the prepared baking sheet. Generously coat both sides of each tender with cooking spray.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn each tender over and continue baking until the outside is crisp and the tenders are cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Serve with the reserved sauce for dipping.
Tips & Notes from Eating Well
1. Ingredient notes: We like Ian’s brand of coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs, labeled “Panko breadcrumbs.” Find them in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets. To make your own breadcrumbs, trim crusts from firm sandwich bread. Tear the bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. (To make fine dry breadcrumbs, process until very fine.) Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. One slice of bread makes about 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs.
2. Chicken tenders are the lean strips of rib meat typically found attached to the underside of chicken breasts. They can also be purchased separately. Four 1-ounce tenders will yield a 3-ounce cooked portion. Tenders are perfect for quick stir-fries, chicken satay or kid-friendly breaded “chicken fingers.”