Crunchy Quinoa Chicken Strips

Quin, who? Quinoa! I know, it’s a weird word, but a delicious whole grain which is really considered a SEED! At any rate, I try to get my family to eat different foods to heighten their pallets, if they know about it, likely they won’t try it! If I tell them about it AFTER they have tried it sometimes the result is better. But most importantly if I disguise it or hide it, they never know and I know they are getting good nutrition and their pallets are being exposed to new foods. Quinoa is a bland grain which is good because you can add to it whatever you want sweet or savory. It is very versatile this way. In order to disguise it using my trickery methods for my family I decide to encrust in on some chicken strips. Yet, that wasn’t enough nutrition for me in this meal. I had to take it 1 step further. Normally when you make any type of cutlets you dip in flour dip in egg, then dip in breading. I decided to add some pureed veggies to my egg mixture instead of just using an egg. Remember the ends of asparagus you throw away? I keep them in the freezer for experimentation… experimentation’s such as this! I used them to create a pesto that will go on top of the finished dish and can be used in helping the quinoa stick to the chicken. Getting those extra nutrients into my kids bellahs!  Yes it is doable…and here is how!

PESTO INGREDIENTS
½ c fresh basil
2 cloves minced garlic cloves
¼ c olive oil, good quality (may require more depending on consistency, add more or less as needed)
2 asparagus stem bundles
Juice of ½ a lime plus zest
1 handful frozen peas
¼ c parmesan cheese
¼ c. toasted whole pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste

PESTO DIRECTIONS
Mix all ingredients together in a food processor until a smooth consistency. Taste test before continuing, you may need to add more olive oil or salt and pepper.

CHICKEN INGREDIENTS
4 chicken breast halves, sliced into strips and pounded thin
1 1/4 cups quinoa
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
¼ c Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
2 T garlic powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon paprika
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

CHICKEN DIRECTIONS
1. Place quinoa in a sauce pan with the chicken stock, salt/pepper, and cumin, and bring to a boil. 

2. Cover and simmer over medium low for about 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Cook 1-2 more minutes uncovered, stirring, until quinoa starts to stick to the pan. 

3. Remove quinoa from heat and spread out in a thin coat on a plate to cool.

4. Place the flour, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, s/p (if using), and paprika in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle over cooled quinoa 4 T at a time as you coat the chicken pieces adding more to the dish. I do it this way so I can reserve the flour mixture for later use. Once it touches the raw chicken, you cannot reuse it.

5. Beat  1 egg and add ½ cup pesto mixture and place in another shallow bowl together. 

6. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. 

7. Season the chicken pieces lightly with s/p. Dredge each piece of chicken first in the pesto/egg mixture, then in the flour/quinoa mixture patting the quinoa onto the chicken to coat.  NOTE: this is a bit of an acquired technique. If quinoa falls off, you are not alone. I find it best to hole the chicken tender in my left hand and press the quinoa firmly onto it. Add it immediately to the heated oiled pan. Once it is in place, LEAVE it until time to turn.

8. Place as many chicken pieces that will fit into the skillet and cook, turning once carefully with a spatula, about 4 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through.  NOTE: You need to use a spatula, the quinoa tends to stick and if you use a different utensil, you will take the coating off the chicken.

9. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding a little more olive oil to the skillet as necessary. 

10. Serve warm and drizzle with additional pesto on top

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Good quality chicken stock or broth works great in recipes

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Stock being added to quinoa

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cooling quinoa

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asparagus stems un-thawing

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pesto ingredients in food processor

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DON’T FORGET THE LIME!

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Pesto and egg mix

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quinoa and flour mix

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chicken strips cooling

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