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Baked Coconut-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Fruit Salsa

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I’ve come to an important realization about the difference between boys and girls. Girls create. Boys destroy.

As a little girl, I remember spending endless hours with my younger sisters drawing, painting, planning, assembling, and constructing. We took pride in neatness and paid special attention towards maintaining an unbroken, neatly sharpened set of crayons. My sons, on the other hand are destroyers. They disassemble. They tear to shreds. They eat the shreds. Seriously. In their world, crayons are disposable objects, with a new set required for every coloring session.

The only thing my little men ‘create’ is chaos. When my sisters and I dug holes in the yard, it was in the process of gathering ‘ingredients’ for mud pies. When my boys dig up the yard, the holes are their end game. They are the very definition of entropy. If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Mars must be a very messy place. Of that I am certain.

I thrive under conditions of order and organization. I donate sets of drinking glasses when one breaks, rendering the set odd-numbered and incomplete. I cringe at mismatching dinner plates. My coffee mugs are neatly lined in the cupboard with all of the handles facing the same way. When someone else unloads my dishwasher for me, I thank them for the favor and then fix the handles on the coffee mugs. I can’t help it. I have a problem. My boys are determined to fix me.

But what my little men lack in the organization department, they more than make up for in other ways. They are sweet, smart, snuggly, and they are all fairly open to trying new foods. For a mom who loves cooking new things, this is a blessing. But, like most children, there are times when they want nothing to do with something new, no matter how delicious it may be. And when the boys team up in their unwillingness, there’s almost no way to win. This was recently the case on the night I made these delicious coconut-crusted chicken tenders, served with a sweet strawberry and mandarin orange salsa.

My oldest son, at the wise old age of five, proclaimed that he preferred ‘regular’ breaded chicken tenders as he stood there watching me prepare the meal. He decided he didn’t like my new chicken tenders before ever taking his first bite and nothing was going to change that. Once the meal was cooked, he reluctantly agreed to try the chicken. He crinkled his nose and took one carefully small bite. He chewed the bite with his face contorted into a dramatic look of utter repulsion, purposefully chewing and swallowing the bite without it ever touching his tongue. His younger brother watched as his big bro gave us such a notable display of disgust for the chicken he never actually tasted. Taking all of his cues from his big bro, he refused to even taste his chicken, loudly, repeatedly, and confidently stating, It’s ‘b’isgusting! Gross. He wouldn’t even eat the strawberries and oranges, which on any other day he would have loved, since they were somehow contaminated by the ‘b’isgusting chicken.

I assure you, this chicken is actually quite ‘b’elicious. It may even become one of your family’s new favorite meals, assuming your kids don’t team up in turning their noses up at it. Best yet, it’s baked in the oven, rather than fried in oil, making it a healthier meal choice for you and your family. The sweet fruit salsa can be made with whatever fruits you have on hand, though soft tropical fruits will work best. A pinch of cayenne pepper, added to the chicken and the salsa give the dish a nice little kick. Add more or less cayenne, depending on you and your family’s preferences.

Baked Coconut-Crusted Chicken Tenders

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 pounds chicken tenders (or chicken breast cut into strips)

Directions

Combine the coconut, panko bread crumbs, salt and cayenne pepper until well blended. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dip each chicken tender into the eggs, then press in the coconut mixture until well coated. Arrange the tenders in a single layer on a baking sheet. (Lightly rub the baking sheet with a bit of olive or vegetable oil to help prevent sticking.) Bake on the middle over rack for about 15-20 minutes, until cooked through and lightly golden.

For the fruit salsa: Chop assorted fruit into small pieces. (I used strawberries and mandarin oranges. Mango, kiwi, and other citrus fruit would be fantastic!) Combine with a bit of honey and a squirt of lime juice. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a little spicy heat. Chopped jalapeño pepper or green onions would be another tasty addition! Refrigerate until using.

Check out this little cutie, already an expert in cupcake destruction!

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5 responses »

  1. You should have put “little cutie” photo at the top instead of coconut and chicken.

    Reply
  2. marekzyskowski

    Looks really good. I’ll need to try this on the week-end.

    Reply
  3. Oh my BABY! Hah! He looks like a happy fella! Of course, if I had a cupcake as big as my head, I’d be pretty happy, too! Lol! Re: the chicken tasters, are you sure you weren’t actually watching MY kids? This is exactly what happens in my house all the time. But everybody has to have a bite before they leave the table no matter how b’iscusting.

    Reply
  4. My kids were whirlwinds, too, I know where you are coming from! But they are creative, too, and make all kinds of things, even if the end product at a younger age was indeed a big hole. I wasn’t neat like you– maybe your kids will eventually pick up on (or naturally have) some of your neat tendencies? You can hope! Meanwhile, I love your coating recipe with the coconut combined with panko, and I’m always a fan of a fruit compote or salsa on my dinner plate. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Sounds ‘b’elicious !! (Did the boys ever come to like these chicken tenders?) BTW – The recipe doesn’t include the oven temperature so I will assume it’s 350 degrees.

    Reply

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