Chicken Nuggets are one of those foods that you hear about and often quickly dismiss as unhealthy “kid food.” I know McDonald’s is one of the first places that comes to mind when I think about them and I can’t even tell you the last time I graced the Golden Arches! However, parents, you all know that it can be tough to get your toddler to eat a healthy meal sometimes, especially a well balanced one with protein and veggies, that you will be satisfied to eat as well. My son LOVES fruit and will down a whole orange like nobody’s business then ask for “mo” (more, one of his most used words!) but we are still working on veggies! Generally I’d rather not be sneaky about feeding him veggies but sometimes you do what you have to do, right?
So I present to you Healthy Chicken Nuggets, mom and toddler approved. I am part of a wonderful Facebook group of women from around the world who “met” online because our babies were all due at the same time. I’ve been friends with them for nearly two years now and as a group, we are constantly talking and sharing what’s going on in our lives, with our littles, and learning how to be the best moms we can be. Of course feeding our kiddos comes up fairly regularly and one of the ladies shared this recipe as a favorite of her children. As soon as I read it I knew it would be something we’d have to try.
I love how it contains several vegetables and quinoa, plus chicken. And I know we are getting real chicken in this, because I ground it myself! The nuggets are baked but still crispy thanks to an outer coat of panko breadcrumbs and the flavors are delicious for grown-ups and children alike. The other great thing with this recipe is that it makes a ton of nuggets. I made very generously sized chicken nuggets and still ended up with 5 dozen! It’s so convenient to have my fridge stocked with leftovers for those busy nights after work or a quick lunch on weekends. I’ve been told they freeze well too, just freeze, uncooked, on a baking sheet. Once frozen, put them into plastic freezer bag or storage container and when you’re ready to eat them, take out just what you need and bake them as described below. How convenient is that?
My son gives these Healthy Chicken Nuggets his seal of approval! That’s all I need to know! We will definitely be making them again!
Healthy Chicken Nuggets
Yield: 5 dozen large nuggets
1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
2 small zucchinis
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 of a yellow onion
2 carrots, peeled
3 cloves garlic
1/2 of a green bell pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3-4 cups panko bread crumbs
nonstick cooking spray
1. Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. [Generally will need to combine 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes until the water is absorbed.] Let cool.
2. In the bowl of your food processor with the grater attachment, grate the zucchinis. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and cook the grated zucchini for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
3. Continuing with the grater attachment, grate the onion and carrots. Then switch to the chopping blade and add the garlic, bell pepper, egg, basil, chicken thighs, Worcestershire sauce, and cooled quinoa. The bowl of the food processor will likely start to get full so remove some of the mixture to a bowl once it’s combined, then process the rest until it is all the same consistency and generally the same composition. If it is too loose add another egg.
4. Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Form the chicken mixture into nuggets of desired size. Coat each nugget with breadcrumbs, then place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray.
5. The baking time depends on the nugget size, approximately 10-18 minutes. When done, the nuggets will be slightly browned and cooked all the way through.
Per nugget: 61 calories, 2 grams fat (calculated from myfitnesspal.com; all nutrition information is approximate)