From the food editor: Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders will be your new favorite go-to

Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
Published June 26 2017
Updated June 28 2017

I decided my almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

Whenever I needed a quick lunch, or didn't know what to eat, or wanted to be kind of healthy but not go all in on a lame salad, I opted for almond-coated chicken tenders over kale slaw and sweet potato noodles from Fresh Kitchen (locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg).

It's still my go-to bowl, but I realized I should pull back a bit, mostly because it was not an efficient use of my precious funds. I am no stranger to cooking, I thought. And I could definitely make the star of that bowl, the almond chicken, at home.

I tried a couple of recipes before deciding I liked the method from EatingWell's recipe best. It uses sliced almonds and just a little bit of flour, and that's it, to form the nutty coating. No bread crumbs required, making these tenders even lighter and crispier than I anticipated.

The end result is very appealing, a simple bite that harkens back to the chicken nuggets you noshed as a kid. It's a great thing to make for a week's worth of work lunches, good in everything from a bowl of rice to a crisp salad.

Honestly, I could eat about 10 of these on their own in one sitting, with little ramekins of ketchup and mustard nearby for deep dunking. My mouth may be salivating as I write this.

Lately, I've been pairing the tenders with fresh, saladlike sides that counteract the hot, salty chicken. Here are my three favorites.

Sides for summer

Broccoli-carrot slaw: Shred some broccoli and whole carrots into a bowl. (Or buy a premade dry broccoli slaw from the grocery store.) Add 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine, and if the slaw is too dry for your liking, add more yogurt.

Simple salad: Place 1 handful romaine lettuce in a bowl. Top with my new favorite addition to salad: pickled banana peppers. (I just buy a jar at the store.) Add any other vegetable you'd like, such as shredded zucchini, diced tomato or thinly sliced radish. Dress with something creamy; I typically mix mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese) with lemon juice and olive oil for a dressing that lasts the week.

Cabbage and corn: This side has a real crunch factor. Into a bowl, shred 1 head red cabbage and 1 small red onion. Add two handfuls cooked corn — I cut mine straight from the cob, but you can use frozen in a pinch. Squeeze the juice from 1 lime over the bowl, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.