We’ve partnered with Shenandoah Valley Organic to show that eating healthfully doesn’t mean giving up on deliciousness! These Whole30-compliant sesame-crusted baked chicken tenders are drizzled with a lively mandarin-ginger dressing and served over a simple avocado and mandarin orange salad.
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Like many this January, I’m eating healthier and exercising more. On the blog and in my life, I try to strike a balance between virtuous foods like salads and equally virtuous but less healthy ones like cookies. The holidays tipped the balance to the cookie side of things, so I’m trying to set things right.
But I don’t believe in “clean eating” or “detoxing,” just in eating nourishing ingredients cooked with care. For me, salads aren’t just a means of eating healthy food, the best salads offer a variety of textures and play up flavors to the hilt. This avocado and orange salad topped with sesame-crusted baked chicken tenders and drizzled with a creamy mandarin orange and ginger dressing is exactly the kind of healthful meal I love most.
Fresh, wholesome ingredients like vibrant spring mix, perfectly sweet mandarin oranges, and Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken tenders are key. A few months back, I visited one of SVO’s farms and was seriously impressed both by the care with which SVO chickens are raised and the respect they have for their partner farmers.
Their line of Farmer Focus chicken features a Farm ID on every package of SVO chicken, telling you where and by whom their chicken was raised. This may give you Portlandia vibes, but I love that they are bridging the gap between farmer and grocery store consumer. And anyway, SVO chicken is some of the freshest, most tender chicken I’ve ever had. Find an SVO retailer near you here.
For best results, marinate chicken overnight or for at least 4 hours. Since the marinade and dressing share several ingredients, I found it easiest to prep both at the same time. Finally, a note on sesame seeds: though toasted sesame seeds can be purchased at the store, for optimal flavor, I recommend buying un-toasted sesame seeds and toasting at home.
- 1 pound Shenandoah Valley Organic Farmer Focus Chicken Tenders
- 1/2 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce*
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger root
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 teaspoons sea salt (*omit if using soy sauce)
- 1 1/2 cups raw sesame seeds, available in the bulk bin of health food and specialty stores
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, preferably mandarin oranges
- 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 2 teaspoons minced or grated ginger root
- 2 teaspoons coconut aminos or soy sauce*
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (*omit if using soy sauce), plus more to taste
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 10- ounces spring mix or greens of choice
- 2 avocados, sliced
- 4 mandarin oranges, peeled and broken into segments
Arrange chicken strips in a wide, deep-sided dish.
Whisk to combine coconut aminos or soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, garlic powder, red pepper, and white pepper. Add 2 teaspoons sea salt is using coconut aminos, omit if using soy sauce.
Pour over chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.
When ready to make the chicken, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds 3 minutes, or until the first few pop and seeds are golden. Spoon into a a small 8 x 5-inch dish with deep sides.
Using tongs, lifts chicken out of marinating liquid and allow a bit to drip off. Turn to coat with sesame seeds. Arrange sesame-crusted chicken tenders on a large baking sheet, allowing 2-inches between each tender. Bake 10 minutes, carefully flip, and bake 4 minutes more, or until tender reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients except olive oil in the pitcher of a blender and pulse. Add olive oil and puree until mixture is smooth. Taste and add sea salt as needed.
To assemble salad, toss greens with several tablespoons dressing, and layer with sliced avocado and mandarin segments. Arrange salad on plates and top each with 2 chicken tenders. Finish with another drizzle of dressing.