For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and glory - honor, splendor and heavenly bliss! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chicken Nuggets: Possibly Perfect Toddler Food

In a lazy parenting moment I offered the girls one of my Wendy's chicken nuggets, and of course they loved it and wanted to eat them all. So then I thought maybe I should pick up some of those pre-packaged ones from the grocery store freezer section, but I stopped myself because who knows what is in those bad boys. They're full of nastiness and evil I'm sure. So I decided to wing it (no pun intended!) and make some myself. I mean... really. How hard could it be?

So keep in mind as you read this that I was experimenting. Very few exact measurements were used.

Here's what I thought I would use. I ended up not using any milk. And I remembered that I would actually need some flour (not pictured).

I cut up the chicken into what I thought was "nugget" size. Feel free to make that judgment for yourself, mine turned out looking like this:

I know you're seein' that huge family pack of chicken and thinking... yikes! That woman's makin' a lot of nuggets! Well, I did make a lot of nuggets, but I set aside 4 chicken breasts, trimmed them up like I usually do, and then tossed them into freezer bags for later use. That way I have pre-trimmed chicken for another meal later on. The freezer is my friend. Yes, indeedy.

Next I set out 3 large bowls to start my little assembly line.

In the first bowl I put 1/2 a cup of flour, some salt and pepper (I just dumped some in, enough to give some flavor to the nuggets. I'm guessing I put about 1 t of each, maybe more.

I cracked 2 eggs into bowl #2.

Then lightly whisked with a fork.

Then in bowl #3 I put 1/2 cup of Panko bread crumbs (you'll find them in the Asian food section, they're WONDERFUL, you'll want them trust me), 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and 1 T each of oregano & basil.

Then I got out my Silpat and put it on a cookie sheet. For whatever reason I have 1 cookie sheet and 2 Silpats, so I was able to work on batch #2 while batch #1 was in the oven. If you don't have a Silpat or some other silicone baking sheet cover, then you can just use parchment paper or you can grease your sheet and do it the old fashioned way.

Now it's time to get messy! I vaguely remember watching some show on the Food Network where someone was making breaded chicken cutlets and she explained how you can do it without getting your hands all goopy. Think I can remember her little trick? Heck no! So I just got all goopy. I'm ok with that.

So first you plunk some chicken hunks into bowl #1.

Then you toss them around until they get all floury.

Then one by one (by one by one by one, etc!) you dip each piece into the egg mixture.

And then into the bread crumbs & cheese.

And then onto your cookie sheet.

Keep going until you fill up the whole thing. After this batch I realized that I could put them much closer together, so that's what you should do instead of experimenting like me.

Ugh... look at all that raw chicken.

For the record, I started this project at 4pm, and I pulled the last batch out of the oven around 8:15pm.

So here's Batch #1 coming out of the oven.

They were in the oven for about 30 minutes. I kept checking and checking them hoping they would turn a beautiful golden color, but after 30 minutes I decided they needed to come out before the chicken got all dry and terrible.

They looked better on a plate.

Even better close up and personal.

So then I fed some to the girls from Batch #1 for dinner along with some green beans and humus/cracker sandwiches and they liked them. They are very tasty and crunchy, even if they're not that pretty (the nuggets, not the sandwiches).

Once the girls were satisfied and cleaned up I turned on a Backyardigans video for them and went on to Batch #2.

I decided to try some I Can't Believe It's Not Butter cooking spray on them in the hopes that it would turn them more golden and beautiful.

It worked, a little bit. That one really pretty piece was what the bottom of the nuggets looked like.

Here's Batch #1 and Batch #2 side by side for comparison.

So that gave me an idea. I nixed the cooking spray for batch #3. I decided that what I REALLY needed to do was turn the nuggets over at about the 15 minute mark. So that's what I did (after I bathed, pajama'd, and put my kids to bed), and they turned out like this:

Yup, you should definitely turn them 1/2 way through the cooking time if you want them to be golden and pretty.

Since I made such a huge batch (I think I used 5-6 chicken breasts) I had to remake the mixtures in the 3 bowls several times. I went through about 1 c of flour, 4-5 eggs, and an entire box of Panko breadcrumbs along with about 3/4 c of cheese. You certainly don't have to make as much as I did. But if you DO, then you can also have a nice full gallon bag like this to put in your freezer.

To reheat just put as many nuggets as you plan to use onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 375 for 10-15 minutes.

PS: These are not just for toddlers! I ended up eating them for dinner that night and they were truly scrumptious!

For more freezer recipes you should really check out Passionate Homemaking! Today they're doing a Nutritious Freezer Meal Carnival, and you're all invited! :)


Kristina P. said...

Wow, I wish I could come over to your house for dinner! Those look amazing!

MommyAmy said...

Thanks! They actually turned out pretty good considering I've never attempted to make them before. :)

Tabitha (From Single to Married) said...

Mmmm... looks like good grown-up food too!

Alison said...

They would be good for appetizers at a party too! Just put a little bbq sauce in a nice dish, and some sweet and sour in another, and voila! Great job!

MommyAmy said...

Oh yeah, they'd be a great appetizer for sure. I'm also thinking it would be good to make them into chicken strips rather than nuggets, less work that way too!

Rosie said...

I'll have to try these too. It will be a special treat for the kids. Sometimes we like to do finger foods when we have company. Except I'll have to make a bigger batch. 5 to 6 chicken breasts wouldn't go very far at my house!

Anonymous said...

got to you from many links starting at moneysavingmom these look great, the trick to keep your hands clean is one hand dry and one hand wet, It alot easier said than done, I worked at a restraurant and we did all the breading let them freeze like this on a sheet tray then fried what we needed for an order. You could bake as needed also. Love pankco breadcrumbs but I make my own and just don't process so fine. thanks for a great post,I'm bookmarking you :) Mandyott1

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