Deliciously “Healthier” Poppy Seed Chicken
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Prior to one of my bridal showers the hostess had asked my fiancé all of these questions about his preferences. Do you prefer crunchy or smooth peanut butter? What’s your favorite sport? Things like that. At the shower, she posed the questions to me in game show fashion. Every time I got a question wrong, I had to put a giant piece of bubble gum in my mouth. I thought I was going to choke on that bubble gum I had so many pieces in my mouth! I apparently didn’t know my future husband at all.
All these years later, one of his answers has always stuck with me… “What is the best dish that Lindsay prepares?”
When the hostess asked it, like many of the other questions, I was totally stumped. Unless it came from the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s, I didn’t prepare anything other than muffins (out of a boxed mix) and scrambled eggs. Like my other answers to the hostess, I offered my best guess, which was wrong. But, unlike the other answers she’d read me, this one put a smile on my face – salad.
If we were using LOL back then, this would be the most appropriate time to use it!
LOL all over the room!
Salad: no cooking required! Just a knife and a cutting board.
And to be honest, up until recently, salad would still be my husband’s answer to “What is the best dish that Lindsay prepares?”
What can I say, I have good knife skills.
Again, insert LOL and a laughing emoji.
No, the truth is cooking just isn’t my forte. During the last several years I have produced a few good batches of banana or cinnamon muffins from scratch and can make pretty good chili and ok tacos, but that’s about it. When people come over for dinner, most likely, we’re ordering pizza.
However, there’s a cute restaurant around the corner from us that has a take and bake fridge. The last time we moved I had grabbed a few of their take and bakes since I’d packed up all of our cooking utensils. One of them was a poppy seed chicken. Y’all, it was delicious. So, every so often, usually by request of my husband, I’ll swing by and pick another one up. But one day I looked at it bubbling as I removed it from our oven and felt this surge of empowerment. I thought to myself, “I bet I can make this.” So, to Pinterest I went, and the experimenting began.
A half dozen poppyseed chicken dinners later, my husband looked at me and said, “This is the best thing you make,” and headed to the kitchen for seconds.
I could have exclaimed, “Eureka!”
I finally had a best dish. And it wasn’t salad.
Sure, it isn’t as healthy as grilled chicken and asparagus, but I do think my recipe is healthier than the others, or any other casserole recipe at least, that I’ve tried yet. And, what’s more, every person I’ve served it to once I finalized the recipe LOVED it.
So, if a healthier, yummy, stick to your bones, warm, affordable dinner is what you’re in the mood for on a Wednesday night after baseball and ballet but before you hit homework and book reports and Spring musical costume making, check this one out…
Lindsay’s Deliciously Healthier Poppy Seed Chicken
6-8 large chicken breasts
2 plain greek yogurt 5.3 oz cups
2 12 oz cream of chicken (I really like Pacific’s)
3 rolls of Ritz Crackers
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 good squeezes of lemon juice (so technical, I know)
Several shakes of ground black pepper (again, super technical, I can’t really measure it because I just know what it looks like in the bowl – kind of like making gravy)
Poppy seeds (this is like the pepper, you just have to look at it, but I will explain later)
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Next, grab your stock pot and fill it 1/2 way with water. Toss a little salt in there and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, add all of your chicken breasts. Don’t worry about trimming the fat off. Just throw them in there as is. (Note: Boiling the chicken is one of the secrets to this recipe. I promise it’s worth the extra pot to clean.)
While they’re boiling, pull out a large mixing bowl and pour the yogurt, cream of chicken, worcestershire sauce, celery salt, garlic powder, lemon juice, and pepper into it. Mix it all up.
Melt your butter in a glass or ceramic bowl in the microwave. Set it aside.
Empty all of your Ritz crackers into a gallon ziplock bag and crunch them up. (No matter how old your kids are, get them involved with this part! I even let my 5 month old grab onto the ziplock bag and wrap her little fingers around to squeeze the crackers.) Once they’re all crunched up, it’s time to add the poppy seeds. How many poppy seeds is really up to you. I like a lot of poppy seeds, so I easily use 3 T. As you’re shaking them into the ziplock bag, mix the crackers up to evenly distribute the seeds. To me, every morsel of Ritz cracker should have poppy seeds on it. (Yum yum!) Once you’ve settled on a Ritz cracker to poppy seed ratio and have them all mixed together, set the bag aside.
Now, pull out your handy dandy cooking thermometer. Use tongs to remove chicken from boiling water and check to see if it’s up to 165 F yet. The timing will just depend on how big your chicken breasts are. (The super huge ones that are in my picture took a little more than 20 minutes.) Once your chicken is cooked, remove all of it from the stock pot and either cube or shred it. (I prefer to shred mine to the same consistency which I prefer my chicken salad.) Once it’s all cubed/shredded, add all of it to your yogurt mixture and mix it up really well.
Spray your baking dish with coconut or olive oil and pour all of the chicken mixture into it.
Now, empty your crunched up Ritz crackers adorned with poppy seeds into the bowl with the melted butter. Mix well. Then, spread that loveliness all over the top of your chicken in the baking dish.
Pop it, uncovered, into the oven for 25 min.
Once it’s done, ooh ooh ooh, your kitchen is going to smell so good! Remove it from the oven and let it sit for at least a couple minutes before you start dishing it out.
I usually serve it with rolls and a side salad. But, honestly, it stands alone just fine all by itself, if you just don’t have any bread or veggies to pair with it.
Lastly, enjoy and soak in the smiles and laughter around your kitchen table while your family gobbles down a deliciously healthier poppy seed chicken dinner.
I’d love to know what your first best dish was (and if yours was once salad too).