Make Your Own 3-Step Popcorn Chicken at Home

Make Your Own 3-Step Popcorn Chicken at HomeMake Your Own 3-Step Popcorn Chicken at HomeBy Wendy Ruopp, Managing Editor of EatingWell

Parenting involves compromises-anyone who's ever had a 3-year-old pass through their lives can attest to that. Of course we hate to compromise when it comes to getting the light of our lives to eat things that are good for them-but when you want to feed them in a restaurant without a fuss, you're grateful to the inventor of popcorn chicken.

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Learning how to turn chicken breast into a fun-sounding meal can save your sanity at home, too, and for less money and more nutrition. And with EatingWell's recipe for Popcorn Chicken, it's so easy you won't even consider using frozen tenders. A fan who commented on our recipe for Spicy Pecan Popcorn Chicken on said: "My whole family loves this meal. My husband asks me to make it at least once a week. My two-year-old is a very picky eater, but, when I make this he eats it all and wants more. It's so easy and quick."

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Follow these easy steps to make popcorn chicken at home and you'll have a delicious dinner everyone in the family can enjoy.

Step 1Step 11. To serve four people, start with 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast. Cut it into 1-inch cubes.

Step 2Step 22. Make a savory mix of whole-wheat breadcrumbs (or Grape-Nuts!), pecans, chili powder and salt in the food processor. Dip the chicken pieces in egg white, then coat with the crunchy coating.

Spicy Pecan Popcorn Chicken
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Healthy Weight | Healthy Heart
Makes: 4 servings
Active time: 25 minutes | Total: 40 minutes

These spicy and crunchy pecan-crusted chicken nuggets are paired with a quick, creamy ranch dip. If you can't find coarse breadcrumbs, substitute Grape-Nuts cereal instead.

Canola oil cooking spray
3/4 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tip) or Grape-Nuts cereal
1/2 cup pecan pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk or milk
1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Thoroughly coat a wire rack with cooking spray and set on a foil-lined baking sheet.
2. Combine breadcrumbs (or cereal), pecans, chili powder and salt in a food processor; process until the pecans are finely chopped and the chili powder is mixed throughout, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish.
3. Whisk egg white and water in a second shallow dish. Add chicken and turn to coat, then dredge in the pecan mixture, turning to coat evenly. Shake off excess. (Discard any remaining egg and pecan mixture.) Place the chicken on the prepared rack and thoroughly coat with cooking spray.
4. Bake the chicken until no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk (or milk), dill and garlic powder in a small bowl. Serve the chicken with the dip.

Per serving: 291 calories; 14 g fat (2 g sat, 6 g mono); 67 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 1 g added sugars; 27 g protein; 3 g fiber; 379 mg sodium; 339 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (20% daily value).

Tip: To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. To make fine breadcrumbs, process until very fine. To make dry breadcrumbs, spread coarse or fine breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs or about 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs. For store-bought coarse dry breadcrumbs we like Ian's brand, labeled "Panko breadcrumbs." Find them at well-stocked supermarkets.

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By Wendy Ruopp

Wendy Ruopp has been the managing editor of EatingWell for most of her adult life. Although she writes about food for the Weeknights column of EatingWell Magazine, her husband does the cooking at home.

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