“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd…”
I’ve been singing this song for days since I made this recipe. I think I speak for the entire household when I say that I wish I would stop. One cat meows loudly when I sing it, (more off-key than on), and the other cat (who is mostly deaf) is the envy of humans and animals alike. When I got stuck at the line, ‘Let me root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a _____,” Andy begrudgingly called out “shame” from the other room, in a tone that suggested his hope that if I could just get to the end of the song I might stop. If only it were that easy…take it from the top!
As iconic as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is, to me the real soundtrack of a baseball game is right outside our door. Living near a park we can clearly hear the cheers, the chants, and the pop of the ball coming off the bat while little leaguers battle it out. These are the sounds of summer. Sounds that make you wish you were out there again, getting dirty sliding into home plate and singing silly rhymes like, “California oranges, Texas cactus, we think your team needs a little practice!” The din of coaches coaching, parents clapping, and kids yelling is so constant it almost seems too quiet when the sun sets and it becomes too dark to play. Only when I’m in an exceedingly grumpy mood do I lament the skill of the pitcher and/or catcher for not being able to keep the ball from whacking loudly into the backstop EVERY FIVE SECONDS. And then Andy reminds me that they are probably about seven years old and not professional players. (Excuses, excuses.)
So when Foodbuzz put out a call for baseball-themed recipes to help spread the word about the Stain Games campaign that benefits Save the Children and promotes healthier lifestyles for those children living in poverty, I wanted to get involved. Thinking about all the squeals of delight that come wafting over our fence every night made me think about how very fortunate these kids are. They are happy and healthy, having fun, and aren’t worrying where their next meal will come from. There are many who are not as lucky and who stand to gain a lot from this campaign.
No food reminds me of baseball more than Cracker Jack caramel popcorn. Even if you didn’t love the popcorn, you loved the prize inside. However, I am very sorry to report that upon excitedly opening the prize, Andy proclaimed it “the lamest ever,” which I would have to agree with. Either our memories of these great prizes are wrong or the prizes have changed…I’m leaning towards the latter. In any case, Cracker Jacks proved to be the perfect choice for this dish, regardless of how lackluster the
piece of paper prize was.
Peanut and Crack Jack Crusted Chicken with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
Makes 8 pieces
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 1-ounce box Cracker Jack popcorn
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Put peanuts and Cracker Jacks into a food processor and process until ground to a fine crumb. Transfer to a flat dish.
Pound out the chicken tenders slightly to an even thickness. Slice each piece of chicken into two long strips. Coat chicken lightly with canola oil, then dip each piece into peanut mixture, pressing firmly to adhere on both sides.
Place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 13-14 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, flipping once halfway through. (These could also be barbecued by laying a piece of foil down on the grill so the coating doesn’t fall off.)
Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add all remaining ingredients, whisking to incorporate the peanut butter. Let sauce simmer on very low heat until chicken is done. (If sauce gets too thick, whisk in a little more chicken broth.)
Serve with peanut sauce on the side for dipping.
(Note: To make this dish kid-friendly, omit the Sriracha from the sauce.)
This dish was a homerun! (Oh come on, you know I had to…) The Cracker Jack coating caramelizes a bit in the oven and gives each bite a hint of sweetness that is nicely balanced by the saltiness of the peanuts and the spice of the sauce. Make these at home for a quick dinner, at the park for a picnic, or at your next tailgate party…then sit back and enjoy the game.
If you would like to get involved in helping to support this effort, go take a swing at Stain Games. Frigidaire will donate to Save the Children for each hit. Batter up!