Tuesday, November 02, 2010

School Lunch: Healthier Chicken Nuggets

Ali and I are taking a look at school lunch and some tips for packing a decent lunch and dealing with the "competitive" foods offered at school. If your school menus look like the ones I deal with, there's a whole lot of nuggets in the mix.

Ali deals with a far more picky eater than I do, and if you are having serious food battles, you should check out her post. As for the school lunch wars around here, it's mostly a fight to keep the ground we've gained toward raising a healthier eater and not losing our hard won turf to the lure of the school cafeteria with nuggets and pizza for main courses. Chips and Cheetos, chocolate milk and even ice cream as USDA-acceptable sides.

Here's a healthier, homemade version from our book:

Golden Crisp Chicken Nuggets
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2 tbs. plain whole milk yogurt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs (you can use Italian-seasoned for flavor)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried Italian herb blend or Pizza Seasoning (Penzeys.com)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the chicken into nugget size pieces.

Mix the egg and yogurt together in a shallow dish. Place another shallow dish next to it with the breadcrumbs, panko, grated cheese, herbs and seasoning. Keep one hand for the "wet" hand and one for the "dry." Mix the chicken in the egg-yogurt mix, then using the "wet" hand, move pieces to the breading mix. Use your dry hand to sprinkle the crumbs over the top and turn to coat each piece well.

Repeat, placing the battered nuggets on a baking sheet. If you have ever crossed up your wet and dry hands, you'll know it — your fingers will be well coated!

Bake the nuggets on a cookie sheet for about 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature at the center of your thickest nugget is 180 degrees. Don't over bake.

So, why plain yogurt? Some of the best, real fried chicken starts with a soak in buttermilk to give the chicken that bit of tangy goodness. Yogurt has a similar flavor, but a thicker texture that will help this baked version hold onto the crumb mixture. The panko is a light and crisp breading, it gives the nugget that great crunch that you normally don't get with baked versions.


Carina said...

Hmmm. Do you think you could freeze these for an instant dinner?

ExpatChef said...

I have not tried it, but I don''t see why not. I would advise reheating in a toaster oven or oven only, however. The microwave will not be good for texture.

Maggie said...

As a like-minded foodie mom, I'm so happy to come across your blog. I write professionaltwinmommy.blogspot.com and blog in part about my food philosophy. Count me as your newest follower! :)

ExpatChef said...

Thank you for visiting, Maggie! I'll be sure to stop by your blog and visit. Thanks for taking the time to leave me a nice word.

Nimble said...

I bet you could zap frozen nuggets until thawed and then crisp them in a heated skillet to help the texture. Looks like a good recipe.