By Lisa Golden Schroeder
I always loved Yogi Bear cartoons when I was little—that silly bear always looking for a picnic basket to steal from an unsuspecting camper. I can’t remember if he was ever successful or what those picnickers had in their baskets, but the general concept of eating outdoors—al fresco—appeals to everyone, not just bears. It’s amazing how really simple food tastes so much more delicious outside, even if there’s a battle with flies, bees or mosquitoes. And messy eaters can revel in spills that Mom won’t quibble about.
The very American “sticky finger club” of picnickers almost certainly gravitates to fried chicken, thickly coated with a crunchy, deep-fried batter. And it’s definitely finger food, but I’d rather oven-fry bone-in chicken legs. No vat of hot oil on a summer’s day, less than an hour’s worth of hot oven time, much less grease, and easy to handle! My favorite all-purpose coating is a quick combo of fine, dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, a generous sprinkle of garlic salt and freshly ground pepper. No specific recipe, just a ratio of two-thirds breadcrumbs to one-third cheese. To help the coating stick I’ll lightly brush or drizzle olive oil onto the chicken (leave the skin on or pull it off), which also helps crisp up the coating in the oven. Bake the chicken at 400˚F until golden and no longer pink inside. Cool and pack in your picnic hamper with lots of napkins.
Along the same line, my boys aren’t fans of fast food chicken nuggets, but they do relish home-baked strips of chicken that have a savory coating. They’re perfect for a quick weeknight meal; add a bowl of potato salad or coleslaw and take time for a summer evening outside.
Chili Chicken Strips with Spiced Picante Sauce
Makes 4 servings
You can’t beat a simple coleslaw with these savory tenders. My kids love a combo of chopped cabbage, julienned carrot, and thinly sliced red onion, tossed with a creamy slaw dressing. Try adding some chopped fresh cilantro or julienned jicama for a southwestern touch.
for the chicken
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
¾ teaspoon garlic salt
1 package (14 ounces) Just BARE™ Chicken Breast Tenders
2 tablespoons olive oil
for the sauce
1 cup mild picante or taco sauce
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Heat oven to 425˚F.
- Mix cornmeal, chili powder and garlic salt in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in mixture to coat them completely. Arrange on baking sheet; drizzle with oil.
- Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, mix all sauce ingredients until well blended. Serve with crisp chicken tenders.