I was sixteen (Ugh—that was almost twenty years ago. I need to throw up), and was babysitting a boy and girl in our neighborhood. Their mom was classy and dignified, and although she always told me to help myself to any of the food in the house, I’m sure she didn’t anticipate all her chicken leftovers to be gone by the next morning. She was probably expecting that the kids and I would open a couple sodas and pop a bag of popcorn. Newman’s Own, incidentally enough—their natural flavor. (Now that was a completely unintentional plug for their popcorn. Cross my heart. It was honestly the popcorn we ate every time I babysat at their house).

The kids would watch me, standing near the fridge with an open Rubbermaid container, gobbling down cold pieces of chicken. I felt a little guilty, I guess. But the truth was, my will was no match for that chicken. And it was best for their family and myself if I could make it on my own instead of mooching off of them whenever I was at their house. I guess I was too embarrassed to ask their mom how she made it, so I asked the kids instead. They told me they thought their mom called it “Celebration Chicken.” We then went through the cabinets and fridge together to piece together the ingredients. It ended up being a rather simple recipe: Dredge chicken tender strips in creamy Italian dressing. Coat with breadcrumbs and cook to perfection.

When Newman’s Own* contacted me to take a recipe and then make it my own, using their salad dressings, I remembered the Celebration Chicken. To make it my own, I used Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Italian Dressing and panko breadcrumbs. Of course, if you want to change it up to make it your own, you could add fresh basil to the bread crumbs, switch out the Parmesan for Romano cheese, fry it in butter, bake it, whatever. So what about all of you, what would you do to make this recipe your own? Do you have any recipes that you love that (shhh . . .) use salad dressing from a bottle? I’m looking at the pasta salad on the cover of Everyday Food right there, and I’m thinking a splash of bottled (all natural, of course) salad dressing would be an easy way to make dinner go a little faster.

What are your ideas?

Celebration Chicken

  • 1/2 cup Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Italian Salad Dressing
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a shallow glass dish, whisk together salad dressing and egg. In a another dish, combine panko, parmesan, salt, and pepper.

2. Dip the chicken tenders in the salad dressing mixture, and then coat in the panko mixture. Place on baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

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