Truth be told, it’s been a rough summer for The Dude Diet. Logan and I have been on the wedding circuit, and he’s been crushing cocktails and apps with shameless enthusiasm for three terrifying months. I don’t want to get into the dirty details (like the time he asked the wedding planner if he could have the leftover mac and cheese from the children’s meals, or when he practically form tackled a tray of late-night grilled cheese on the dance floor), but you should know I’ve spent a lot of time reenacting the scene from My Best Friend’s Wedding where Julia Roberts chases Dermot Mulroney (who she’s in love with), who’s chasing Cameron Diaz (who he’s in love with) across a giant lawn. In these scenarios, I’m Julia, Logan is Dermot, and Cameron is a poor, unsuspecting finger food server.
Needless to say, it’s been very stressful.
Instead of panicking about Logan’s flagrant Dude Diet disobedience, I’ve been patiently waiting for the season to end, at which point I figured I’d surreptitiously put him on an extended version of this plan. Logan’s wonderland body would be restored without too much permanent damage to his arteries or The Dude Diet brand, and I’d just pretend this wedding weirdness never happened. Onward to glory!
Then last weekend, while casually discussing fall activities with the Dude, Logan stated his intention to host “dope football parties” at our apartment. He immediately launched into a series of 100% batshit food requests, all of which involved mass quantities of beef, cheese, and deep-fried fatness, almost rolling off the bed in his excitement.
As I stared at the beads of anticipatory meat sweat forming on his upper lip, my stomach constricted with dread. How could I have forgotten? Sure, weddings and holiday parties are tough, but they’ve got nothing on The Dude Diet’s most persistent and dangerous threat: FOOTBALL SEASON.
I hate football. Outside of scouting potential Dude Diet ambassadors, I have zero interest in the sport, and I resent the negative effect that it has on Logan’s personality (he’s mostly edgy and hostile because the Eagles and Buffs are always “shitting the bed!”), his social life, and most importantly, his gut.
Logan’s eating habits during football season are every bit as disturbing as you would imagine. He appears to be physically incapable of watching football without getting dirty on the food front, and he tends to mindlessly push things into his mouth (yes, he literally pushes bigger bites into his mouth if they don’t fit) throughout the game with no regard for portion control or Dude Diet decorum. Predictably, such behavior has upsetting consequences, including meat sweat-soaked sheets, teary pleas for Zantac, and prolonged periods of “alone time” in the bathroom. Things get ugly.
I’ve previously discussed how to responsibly indulge on Super Bowl Sunday, but the Super Bowl is just one short day, dudes, and we’ve got at least five months worth of football fanaticism and feasting to deal with. Luckily, The Dude Diet has already tackled some of the most dangerous game day foods (cheesesteaks, burgers, pizza, burritos, subs and mac and cheese), but there’s one fan favorite that I seem to have overlooked: Buffalo Chicken Tenders.
Logan loves him some “buffalo fingies.” In fact, when asked whether he likes them more than regular Buffalo wings, his response was, “FUCK YES. Easier, cleaner, much more meat. And they don’t require as much work for Daddy.” The last reason is actually rather dangerous, as the boneless aspect of chicken fingers means that Logan is able to ingest them more quickly and with less chewing than a standard wing. This exponentially increases both his calorie intake and choking risk, and I worry about him crushing them without supervision. Death by buffalo fingie is a very real risk for the Dude.
I actually had a little bit of a scare last year when Logan inhaled a pile of buffalo tenders in a very short time period, and his entire face swelled/broke out in a strange rash. I told him to stop eating immediately because something was clearly very wrong, and we might need to call a doctor. Unconcerned, the Dude told me to relax, popped a Benadryl with his beer, and shamelessly continued his feast. It was one of the Dude Diet’s darkest days.
The worst part about Logan’s buffalo finger obsession is that despite my Dude Diet tutelage, he doesn’t think they’re “that bad” for him. You know, because chicken is a “healthy meat,” and “spicy things are good for your metabolism.” Dear God.
Based on my extensive field research, I’ve found that many men share Logan’s affinity for buffalo chicken tenders, and the majority of them appear equally “confused” about the nutrition facts of this beloved finger food. Prepare yourselves, dudes. Here come the knowledge bombs…
Buffalo chicken fingers are the devil. Yes, chicken is good for you, but not when it’s dredged in white flour and breadcrumbs (or battered in a similarly nutrition-less manner), deep fried in artery-clogging oil, and then bathed in a Buffalo sauce that is at least 50% butter. For the record, three standard buffalo chicken fingers clock in at around 600 calories and 36 grams of fat, and that’s before you dunk them in copious amounts of the creamy fatness that is ranch dressing. Dude Diet disaster.
If you can limit your fried buffalo chicken finger intake to the occasional No-Calorie Sunday, fine. I’m obviously not proposing some sort of Bloomberg-like ban on chicken tenders, as I believe in all things in moderation. That said, if you must indulge your fingie fetish on the reg, please switch to these Baked Buffalo Chicken Tenders with Dude Diet Ranch immediately.
These fingies are all kinds of epic, dudes. I can honestly say that they’re the juiciest, most insanely flavorful buffalo tenders I’ve ever had (and thanks to Logan, I’ve had a lot). The awesomeness is largely due to the fact that the chicken tenders are marinated in ranch dressing, so each fiery bite has a layer of tangy ranch baked in. I can’t even handle the dankness.
If you’re skeptical as to how the fingers on your screen could possibly be Dude Diet approved, let’s briefly break down the nutritional aspects of these bad boys. First of all, the ranch marinade (/dipping sauce) is made with non-fat Greek yogurt, which provides all the ranch flavor you love with only a fraction of the fat and calories, as well as added protein and a healthy dose of calcium. Booyah. Next, the high protein fingers are lightly breaded with whole wheat Panko, which at least provides more fiber than white breadcrumbs, and then they’re baked to crispy perfection without any oil or added fat. Finally, each badass tender is coated with Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, which by some miracle has 0 calories and fat. (Frank is a magician.)
Dude Diet TOUCHDOWN.
Not gonna lie, I briefly questioned the incomparable deliciousness of these tenders when I served them to Logan on Tuesday. He ate silently in front of his computer and didn’t say a single word for TWO HOURS. Not wanting to prompt false compliments, I said nothing and retreated to the kitchen to reevaluate my life.
Then I remembered it was Fantasy Football draft night, and the Dude was simply laser-focused on making “Eli’s Hot Carl” the greatest fantasy team of all time. (Like I said, I hate football.)
Once the draft was over, Logan launched into a glowing review of the fingies, waxing poetic on their tenderness and “buttery undertones” (???). His passionate speech concluded with, “I almost choked on one because I tried to put the whole thing in my mouth!!!” which is one of his best compliments because he is only so reckless when things are really, really bomb.
Happy Football Season, dudes. Let’s keep it tight.
Baked Buffalo Chicken Tenders with Dude Diet Ranch Dressing: (Serves 2-4)
1½ cups non-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon dried parsley, crushed (Just use your fingers to crush the flakes.)
½ teaspoon dried dill weed
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders/tenderloins
1 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1 cup Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce
Preparing your Baked Buffalo Chicken Tenders with Yogurt Ranch:
-Let’s start with the ranch dressing, shall we? In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, parsley, dill, garlic powder, salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
– Add ¾ cup of the ranch and seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Squish the chicken and dressing around, making sure that each tender is well coated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Pop that extra ranch in the fridge too.
-Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray and place it on top of a baking sheet. Set aside. (If you don’t have a wire rack, it’s not the end of the world, dudes. You can cook your fingies on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil if you must.)
-Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl with a good pinch of kosher salt. Set this bowl next to the prepared baking sheet and get your marinated chicken from the fridge. You want to set up a little assembly line to make your life easier.
-One at a time, remove the chicken tenderloins from the bag and dredge them in the bowl of breadcrumbs. (Using tongs makes this process less messy.)