Every week I try to prepare at least one new recipe that I think my meat and cheese loving toddler will eat. Obviously, I don’t expect him to eat a salad or Buddha bowl, so I work with what I’ve got and play off the foods he does eat.
Chicken was the first meat I ever offered my picky eater and has remained a household favorite. I’m not surprised. After all, when I was pregnant one of my major cravings was rotisserie chicken and boy oh boy did I eat a lot of it!
Here’s the problem- although my child will still eat chicken (and every other meat), he is very particular about how it’s prepared. Too dry? Too much sauce? Not enough sauce? Having a bad day? It’s a roll of the dice with my wild child. Unfortunately it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep him nice and full; a hungry 3-year-old is a crank-kay little person. My child can (and will) literally make your life a living hell if he gets too hungry.
No, this does not mean he will eat chicken with tomato sauce. Or chicken that was covered in tomato sauce, but scraped off. He will refuse the chicken, refuse to eat, and probably make you wonder why you decided to procreate in the first place.
Only kidding! But you will definitely pour yourself that second glass of wine and probably just feed him some version of mac n cheese, sausage or quesadilla, anyway. Or maybe that’s just me. Definitely possible. But come dinner-time I am t.i.r.e.d and the last thing I want to think about is how I can convince my kid to eat something he doesn’t like.
So I thought, hey! my kid likes chicken tenders and the occasional piece of broccoli and maybe pineapple. hmm, probably not pineapple. or broccoli. but, he loves chicken tenders! I’ll make fancy baked chicken tenders and offer the broccoli and pineapple, that way I can feel good about my meal-time parenting (for once).
I was going to push it a little, though, and coat the chicken in crushed macadamia nuts and shredded coconut. Why? Because otherwise I may as well save myself the time and toss some frozen nuggets in the oven and call it a night.
Not tonight. Tonight I was going big! Besides, this was going to be a family dinner, not an Octavian dinner. To go with the chicken I made the most delicious pineapple coconut dipping sauce with some of the unused marinades. OMG, I could eat it by the spoonful. Somehow my offspring does not care for sauces (not even ketchup!), so I knew this would be just for grown ups.
Anyway, this easy sheet-pan dinner is delish! Served over white rice or cauliflower rice, it makes a great, easy weeknight dinner (most) family members will enjoy.
Sadly, my child was not one of them. Apparently, he only likes plain chicken. Whatever, kid, more for me!
Sheet Pan Macadamia Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders with Peanut Sauce
FOR THE COCONUT PINEAPPLE MARINADE/SAUCE
- 1 cup coconut milk, lite or full fat
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha, more or less depending on how spicy you want it
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup roasted salted macadamia nuts
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup shredded coconut
- First prepare the marinade. In a medium bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade until fully combined. Place 1/2 cup of the mixed marinade and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large ziplock bag. Add the chicken tenders and seal the bag completely, removing as much air as possible from the bag. Use your hands to move around the chicken so that each piece is coated in marinade. Allow the chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hour (if time permits) to overnight. Store the remaining sauce in a separate container in the refrigerator.
- Once ready to cook, prepare the broccoli and pineapple. In a large mixing bowl toss the broccoli with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt + pepper. In a separate bowl toss the pineapple with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon brown sugar.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with a light coat of nonstick cooking spray. On one side of the baking sheet line the broccoli and on the other side of the baking sheet line the pineapple. Set aside as you prepare the chicken.
- Space allowing, add another piece of foil in between the broccoli and pineapple for the chicken and spray with nonstick cooking spray. While not necessary, it will protect the chicken from the pineapple juices which will make the chicken soggy (no bueno). If things get too crowded, you can always cook the chicken on a separate baking sheet.
- To a food processor add the macadamia nuts and process until the size of panko breadcrumbs. Add the processed macadamia nuts, panko breadcrumbs, flour and toasted coconut to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
- Transfer mixture to a large ziplock bag. Set aside.
- In a small bowl whisk together the eggs in a small bowl and add to the bag with the marinating chicken. Working in batches of 2-3 chicken tenders at a time, carefully transfer chicken from marinating bag to the ziplock bag with the processed panko and macadamia nuts. Press mixture firmly onto the chicken with your fingers to make sure the coating sticks.
- Transfer each breaded chicken tender to your lined baking sheet, repeating the process until all the chicken has been coated in the breading mixture. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked through (internal temp of 165 degrees F). Turn oven to broil for extra crispiness.
- Finally, as everything is baking, prepare the Thai peanut sauce. To a small saucepan add the reserved refrigerated coconut pineapple marinade over medium high heat. Whisk in the cornstarch and bring to a low boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter. If sauce becomes too thick, thin with any remaining coconut milk, pineapple juice or water.
- Drizzle sauce over baked chicken or use as a dipping sauce. Serve chicken, broccoli and pineapple over rice, cauliflower or as a delicious low-carb dinner.