Sunflower Seed-Crusted Ranch Chicken Tenders

Sunflower Seed-Crusted Ranch Chicken Tenders

This week’s installment comes early since I wanted to highlight a particular rivalry game. As a native of the Sunflower State, I just had to blog about the “Big Monday” match-up, University of Kansas at Kansas State.

The Kansas Jayhawks, whose national ranking was upgraded to No. 5 today, need to beat the Wildcats to continue their quest for a Big 12 title. Though KU is 73-45 overall at K-State, a Jayhawk win in Manhattan hasn’t exactly been a slam dunk in recent years. At home, the Wildcats have beaten the Jayhawks in 2 of the last 4 games.

Perhaps the lack of a professional basketball team in the state accounts for the intensity of fans on either side. But I think that KU and K-State simply love to hate each other. With Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, likely ending the Border Showdown between KU and Mizzou, K-State solidifies their status as KU’s most bitter divisonal foe.

For tonight’s Sunflower Showdown, I thought it would be appropriate to incorporate sunflower seeds into a dish.

Most recipes utilizing sunflower seeds are for salads and breads and since neither item seemed fitting for Game Day Grub, I brain-stormed a new one. As a child, I always liked the ranch-flavored sunflower seeds at ball games. And ranch goes well with chicken strips. Why not combine all three flavors in one dish?

And thus my recipe was born. After marinating chicken tenders in ranch dressing,  I ground toasted sunflower seeds and mixed them with bread crumbs to form the breading. The tender chicken tasted slightly nutty and very flavorful. In fact, a dipping sauce proved unnecessary since it exploded with so much zest.

It may seem like a strange recipe, but all flavors melded really well! A deep fryer probably produces the best cooking method, but since I don’t have one, the oven suffices. The sunflower seed-breading would also work well with fish.

KU plays at K-State tonight at 9 pm ET.  I know who I will be cheering for.

Sunflower Seed-Crusted Ranch Chicken Tenders

By Rachel Ingersol

Prep Time: (inactive) 60 minutes (active) 20 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Yields: approx. 8 tenders

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs chicken tenders, fat trimmed

½ bottle ranch dressing

4 tablespoons hulled sunflower seeds

8 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons dry ranch dressing mix

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1) Place chicken tenders in a large bowl and cover with ranch dressing. Refrigerate. Marinate chicken for at least one hour and up to a day.

2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3) Toast sunflower seeds in a dry pan on low heat for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Grind seeds in a blender or coffee grinder.

4) Mix ground sunflower seeds, panko crumbs, dry ranch, and pepper in a medium bowl. Shake off excess ranch dressing and coat chicken tenders in crumb mixture. Place on greased baking sheet. Lightly spray each piece with cooking spray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip chicken tenders, spray and bake another 10 minutes.

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