Thursday, July 17, 2014

Homemade Chicken Nuggets and Breaded Mozarella Sticks! Yes, You Can!

Just what is in a chicken nugget? A lot more than chicken that’s for sure. Recently I made the colossal mistake of taking a child with me to the grocery store. Somehow I allowed myself to be talked into not only a box of frozen chicken nuggets, but another of frozen mozzarella sticks. When we arrived home with our loot, both boxes were gone within the hour and two of my children were asking, “Why can’t you buy these all the time?” They were not happy with my lengthy answer that included reciting the ingredients list on the side of the nugget box.

Contrary to popular local lore, I am not the meanest mom in the world. I did feel a twinge of guilt when I looked into their sad faces. Not enough guilt to land those nuggets in my shopping cart again, but enough guilt to launch a search for a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets that actually tasted like the nuggets of their affection but was also good for them. This inspired me to search further and find a recipe for mozzarella sticks (The greasy, breaded kind my kids order at restaurants and fill up on before their meal arrives, not the plain kind that come in those wrappers that require reading glasses and non-guitar-playing fingernails to open.).

I located two excellent recipes on the website Weelicious and with a few modifications I’m happy with the version I whipped up last night to the delight of my diners! The coolest part is that I was able to make triple batches and freeze the extra nuggets and cheesesticks for future meals that the kids can fix themselves.

Want to know how I did it? Here you go –
Chicken Nuggets
1 pound chicken breasts, boneless & skinless cut into chunks
¼ cup whole oats (the kind that take five minutes to cook, not the instant or minute kind)
¼ teaspoon dried parsley
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground black (or white) pepper
¾ -1 teaspoon garlic powder (depending on your pickiness level)
½ teaspoon onion powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Place first 8 ingredients in food processor and process until it becomes a big sticky lump.

3. Place bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in shallow bowl and mix.
4. Shape chicken mush into desired nugget shapes. (This is where the uber-creative mom might go a little nuts. I did shape one nugget into a heart, but decided it was too much work and just went with the standard lump shape after that.) Roll nuggets in breadcrumbs and place on baking sheet sprayed with coconut oil (or canola oil if you haven’t got any).

5. At this point you can either freeze nuggets on tray overnight and transfer to a container for later use or cook them up.
6. Preheat over to 375.
7. Spray nuggets with cooking spray (coconut!) and bake for 15 minutes. (It will take a little longer if you’re baking them from their frozen state but we haven’t experimented with that yet. I’d guess about 5 minutes longer.)

Cheese Sticks
1 pound cheese sticks (the original recipe says you can cut a block of mozzarella into sticks, but I’m thinking that might be dangerous and it would immediately alert the natives that Mom made it)
2 eggs
½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup panko (or herb flavored breadcrumbs if you want a little more flavor)

1. Unwrap and freeze cheese sticks for an hour.
2. Beat eggs and place in shallow bowl.
3. Place flour in a separate shallow bowl and panko in yet another shallow bowl.

4. Dip cheese sticks in flour, then eggs, then panko and place on greased baking sheet. (Canola spray is fine, but for even better flavor, use coconut oil spray!)

5. If you aren’t planning on eating these right away, you can place baking sheet in freezer overnight and later transfer cheese sticks to a bag for later use. OR
6. Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes (but watch them carefully so they don’t overmelt!)

These were the leftovers after my three kids finished eating -

 But, how cool is this? These were the ones destined for their lunches this week -

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