Grilled chicken is my go-to lean protein source whenever I’m planning my meals or looking for a new recipe to try. 4 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast contain a whopping 23 grams of protein for only 110 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. That’s enough to keep you full while keeping you lean.
Let’s be honest though– grilled chicken can be boring. Sometimes I’ll go months on end eating the same ol’ grilled chicken breast with the same ol’ seasonings for lunch each and every day. And then I get sick of it and spend a few weeks or months avoiding chicken altogether.
Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for chicken recipes that will mix things up a bit for my taste buds.
I’ll admit I love those pecan-crusted chicken salads that they serve at many chain restaurants in my area. They taste so good. Once upon a time, I actually believed maybe those salads aren’t all that bad for you. I mean, pecans are full of healthy fats, so they must be a better coating than bread crumbs on those chicken tender salads you find everywhere. I’m sure they just bake the pecans onto grilled chicken strips– sounds like a super healthy dish to me. Eat up!
I was WAY off on that assumption. Did you know those crispy strips of chicken on top of those salads are crispy not only because they’re coated in nuts– but because they’re deep fried too? A T.G.I. Friday’s Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad contains 1,360 calories. 1,360 calories– that’s almost enough for a day’s worth of food!!
Way to ruin what could be a perfectly healthy meal!!
In my mind, chicken + nuts SHOULD mean lots of lean protein, healthy fats, and happiness for my taste buds.
So, this weekend, I played around with making my own healthier version of the chicken that tops these tasty salads. The chicken is not hard to mimic at all, and your waistline will be all the better off if you make your own recipe at home. (I also bought my nuts and chicken breasts at Sam’s Club– so they weren’t expensive at all to make, either).
Here’s what you need (bear with me– I’m not good at the whole measuring thing and prefer to eye my ingredient amounts):
- Nuts of your choice (I used almonds because that’s what I had on hand– but you can use any type that suits your fancy. Pecans are widely-used in restaurants).
- Grilled chicken breasts.
- Pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder.
Here’s what I did (again, nothing too scientific here):
- I put a few handfuls of almonds in my food processor until they were finely crumbled.
- I cut three very large chicken breasts into chicken-tender-size strips (I made a large batch to last me a few days).
- I beat the eggs and dipped the chicken strips into the beaten eggs (you could use egg whites only if you prefer).
- I then dipped the chicken strips into the crumbled almonds. I ran out of almonds once, so I had to throw another handful into the food processor– hey, it happens.
- I put the almond-coated strips in a greased baking dish, coated them generously with the spices, and baked them at 375 degrees F until their internal temperature was 165 degrees F (40 minutes for me– your baking time will depend on how thick you make your strips).
The almonds made my house smell AMAZING as they toasted in the oven. I’m eating these for lunch this week dipped into Dinosaur Roasted Garlic Honey BBQ sauce– yummy. You could use them to top salads, or make your own honey mustard dipping sauce.