The Dude Diet: Chicken Cutlets and Zucchini Noodles with Cherry Tomatoes
I mean, I always knew a high profile dude would eventually get on board, I just wasn’t exactly sure of how it would play out. I mostly envisioned getting my hands on a pre-weight loss Seth Rogan type, putting him on The Dude Diet in secret for a couple months, and having him publicly unveil his new wonderland bod to the world in some dramatic way. When Jimmy Kimmel inevitably asked how this dude got so svelte, I would come running out on stage in a tight Dude Diet t-shirt and take full credit. Said celebrity would then star in national ad campaigns alongside Logan (who is already an internet celebrity), and The Dude Diet would become the new Weight Watchers. It was a simple plan.
This is not what happened.
What did happen is that I recently became the private chef for a young NFL player, and he has become The Dude Diet’s most surprising success story. In fact, this athletic dude has lost ten pounds in the past two months, and in his words, he’s, “Feeling fast. Feeling strong. Know what I’m sayin’?” I do.
Let’s back up for a second. How, you may ask, was I able to recruit a professional athlete as a Dude Diet disciple? The short answer is fate. The longer answer is that a friend of the Dude’s put me in touch with a regional NFL team’s nutritionist who was looking for a private chef for one of her clients. After perusing The Dude Diet archives and asking me some questions about my healthy cooking philosophy, I was hired, and the rest is Dude Diet history.
Since I’m not really familiar with football, I obviously had no idea who this player was. It is possible that you do, but for legal reasons, I cannot disclose his name. For now, let’s just call him Tim Riggins. TR for short. I was told by TR’s nutritionist that he played a running position, and that he should be eating lots of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and limited fats and refined carbs. This was no sweat, since those requirements are 100% in line with The Dude Diet’s philosophy. I had this in the bag.
Sadly, things are never that easy.
My first day on the job was scary. First of all, TR’s kitchen was stocked in the way many dudes’ kitchens are, meaning that is wasn’t. There was no cutting board, can opener, measuring cup, or vegetable peeler. No spices. No basic pantry items. Nada. However, there were 17 bottles of hot sauce and some beers, which reminded me of Logan and calmed me down enough to cook dinner. I made it work, but it was messy, and I’m pretty sure TR’s assistant was quite alarmed when I used a giant chef’s knife to stab open a can of tomatoes.
When TR arrived, I got right down to brass tax and said, “So, your nutritionist says you’re on a pretty strict diet.” His response was, “WHAT?! I’m not on a diet!! I’m just trying to eat less Taco Bell!” I blinked several times to make sure that Logan had not magically teleported to a stranger’s apartment, and I eventually replied that I could make that happen. He was pleased, but like most dudes, he seemed hesitant about healthy eating. He didn’t want any “weird tofu,” and he felt the need to remind me that he only liked “food that tasted good.” I promised him that I would feed him healthy, hearty food, and that eating a balanced diet would make him both feel and play better.
After outfitting his kitchen with the basics, I have made good on my promise, and TR has been thrilled with his Dude Diet meals over the past few months. (He is particularly fond of Dude Diet enchiladas, brown rice jambalaya, and pork tenderloin.) TR started losing weight almost immediately, and he proudly informed me that his coaches have been commenting on how lean and fast he’s been lately. Booyah. After this announcement, he also asked if I could make him a cheeseburger and fries, so like the Dude, he clearly struggles with the issue of maintenance.
TR has been feeling so good about his new Dude Diet regime, that he’s been telling his teammates about my philosophy, and even inviting some over for dinner. This is how it starts, friends. First TR, then some other heavy-hitting players, and before you know it, the Dude Diet is sponsoring the Super Bowl, and I’m in TR’s team picture on the shoulders of a bunch of football-playing dudes. I can’t wait.
Realistically, I realize that celebrating TR’s Dude Diet triumph may be slightly premature. The Dude Diet is a lifestyle, not a quick fix, so it remains to be seen if TR remains committed in the long term. However, I wanted to share his recent success with you all for a couple reasons. First, if The Dude Diet is making a professional athlete harder/ better/faster/stronger, imagine what it can do for the rest of you! Second, I wanted to inspire the Dude to step up his game this holiday season lest TR take over his coveted position as Dude Diet brand ambassador in 2014. A little healthy competition never hurts.
Since following the Dude Diet requires some dedication on your part, dudes, it’s only fair that I provide you with a delicious, nutritious meal. So, without further ado, let’s get to the food. I give you: Dude Diet Chicken Cutlets and Zucchini Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes.
Everyone loves a good chicken cutlet, and this one is the bomb. Tender, juicy chicken breast with a crisp coating of herbed breadcrumbs is an absolute touchdown in both the flavor and texture departments. Basically, it’s a giant, perfectly seasoned chicken finger, which is what fat kids’ dudes’ dreams are made of.
However, unlike your traditional chicken cutlet, which is coated in white flour and eggs before being dredged in breadcrumbs and fried in artery-clogging oil and butter, these bad boys have been made-over in several Dude Diet-friendly ways. First, the chicken is marinated in non-fat Greek yogurt that’s been spiced up with a money combination of dried herbs and garlic. The yogurt gives the chicken an amazing amount of flavor and keeps it unbelievably moist (sorry, there’s no other word) without adding unnecessary fat, calories, or cholesterol. Boom.
After they’ve been marinated, the chicken breasts get coated in a crave-worthy layer of whole wheat Panko, Parmesan cheese and herbs. Between the yogurt and the breading, these bad boys are seasoned twice, so they’re pretty much guaranteed to put your standard chicken cutlets to shame. Post-breading, Dude Diet Chicken Cutlets get baked to golden brown perfection because, as I’ve told you countless times, fried food is for fatties. Plus, baking the cutlets actually makes them much crispier than their pan-fried counterparts, which tend to get soggy and oil-logged within minutes.
While Dude Diet Chicken Cutlets are dank on their own or served with almost any side, they are especially sexy over Zucchini Noodles with Cherry Tomatoes. Zucchini pasta is by no means a new concept, but since some of you dudes may not spend hours perusing Pinterest or reading food blogs, I shall take full credit for this awesomeness. It turns out that thinly sliced zucchini takes on a texture similar to spaghetti when lightly sautéed, which is a beautiful thing for those of you who crush pasta on the reg. Garlic, cherry tomatoes, and a splash of olive oil create a light, slightly sweet sauce for the “pasta” that’s finished with bright, fresh basil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Nutritionally, this meal is a Dude Diet masterpiece. It’s low in fat and refined carbohydrates, and it’s packed with lean protein and a host of necessary vitamins and anti-oxidants. The zucchini pasta, specifically, will do you all kinds of favors in the health department, since zucchini is basically a superfood. It helps lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, heart attack, and stroke, and it improves prostate health, which is always great news. It’s also packed with fiber, which will keep you full and satisfied all night, while improving your (questionable) digestion. Hallelujah.
If you’re panicking because this recipe looks and sounds ridiculously fancy, thank you, but chill. As always, dudes, it’s idiot-proof. Prepping the chicken requires no more than 7 minutes (it took me 5, so I’m giving you a 2-minute dude buffer), and I’m pretty sure my five-year old sister could do it. Yes, the zucchini noodles are a little bit more labor-intensive, but it’s worth it. Try turning on a random sports game in the background and enjoy a light beer while you slice. Instant fun.
Based on its deliciousness, nutritional value, and do-ability, Dude Diet Chicken Cutlets and Zucchini Noodles with Cherry Tomatoes should be added to your repertoire immediately. In the spirit of research, I made this recipe for both TR and Logan, and I can honestly say that it rocked both their worlds and their wonderland bodies. TR was quite overwhelmed with how delicious his apartment smelled, and he did a lot of “wow”-ing and “mmmhmmm”-ing during the meal, which is his version of the Dude’s grunts and expletives. As for Logan, he performed an impromptu excitement dance when I brought this out of the kitchen and called me a genius. He then proceeded to high-five me after he finished eating, which was a new and unexpected thing for us.
Get in the Dude Diet game, dudes. Virtual butt slap.
Dude Diet Chicken Cutlets and Zucchini “Noodles” with Cherry Tomatoes: (Serves 2)
2 thinly sliced chicken breasts, aka chicken cutlets (about 7 ounces each)
6 ounces non-fat Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
For the breading:
1 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
2½ tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 pinch cayenne pepper
For the Zucchini Pasta:
2 medium zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 dry pint cherry or grape tomatoes (I like to use a mix of red and yellow), halved
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
Preparing your Dude Diet Chicken Cutlets and Zucchini “Pasta” with Cherry Tomatoes:
-Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray and set it aside.
-In a small bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, salt, garlic powder, basil, oregano and white pepper.
-Place the chicken cutlets in a gallon Ziploc bag and add the yogurt mixture. Remove as much air as possible, and seal the bag. Squish the bag around with your hands to make sure that the chicken is well coated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
-While your chicken is marinating, get to work on your zucchini “noodles.” If you have a spiralizer (you’re so fancy!), use that to turn your zucchini into pasta. If you don’t have a spiralizer, no worries, I don’t either. Use a mandolin or a knife to slice each zucchini into planks about an 1/8-inch thick.
-10 minutes before the cutlets are ready, you’ll want to cook your “pasta.” Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the minced shallot and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes until the shallots are softened and the garlic is fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the garlic, dudes.)
-Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes until the tomatoes start to burst. Crush a couple tomatoes with a spatula to release some extra juice. At this point, I like to remove a third of the tomatoes from the pan to serve on top of the cutlets, but this optional.
-Serve your zucchini noodles sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese and top with the chicken cutlets. Way to go, champ.
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