Monday, February 8, 2016

Better Than McNuggets and Fries: Oven Roasted Parmesan Chicken Fingers and Sweet Potato Fries

 "You've got to help me, mom." 

This was my adult daughter's recent call for help.The woman with a freezer full of Hot Pockets and Tombstone Pizzas was seeking out recipes for healthy, easy-to-prepare dishes that her boys (ages one and six) and boyfriend would like.

Over the years, I watched my six-year-old grandson shift from a preference for fresh fruits and vegetables to a craving for the high fat, processed food that drive-through windows and freezers can instantly satisfy. This was a kid whose favorite foods were once chicken teriyaki, rice, broccoli and cantaloupe (the menu I made for his second birthday dinner). But by the time he was four, he rejected these same foods.


My mission was to help revive the broccoli-loving boy by offering food that he’d like every bit as much as Chicken McNuggets and French fries from McDonalds.

For a test run, I served these oven-baked parmesan chicken fingers with roasted sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli to the “picky eater” in my own household. The chicken was quick and easy to prepare, required few ingredients and, most important, was crunchy and delicious. At this stage, I think I'll suggest to my daughter these frozen sweet potato fries (such as this Alexia brand from Sprouts) as a quicker, easier option than peeling and cutting up whole sweet potatoes. (Baby steps, baby steps)

Since I live six hours away from my grandsons, I'll make a double batch of the chicken finger, vacuum seal and freeze them and bring them, the recipe and a sheet pan with me on my next trip to Southern California. 


And, with any luck, I'll get a big hug and a "Thank you for cooking for me, Achan" from the broccoli boy. 

Got any easy, healthy, kid-pleasing recipes? Please share. 

                                                     Recipe

                               Oven Roasted Parmesan Chicken 

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs, beaten with 2 T water
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I like Panko)
salt, pepper and seasonings of your choice (I used dried basil and paprika)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut up chicken breast into thin strips or in chunks like Chicken McNuggets.

Set up your preparation station in three shallow bowls: one with flour, one with beaten eggs and one with parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and seasonings. 

First dredge each strip in flour, then dip in egg mixture, and then coat with cheese/breadcrumb mixture. Place each piece on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. 

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

(A note about panko: Did you know that it literally means "little bread" in Japanese? "Pan" is the word for bread in both Japanese and Spanish. And the "ko" is a cute little diminutive.)