How Can I Spice Up Boring Chicken Fingers?
Q: Dear Top Nana,
My grandchildren, ages 2 and 4, live on a steady diet of PB&J, mac ’n cheese, and ESPECIALLY chicken nuggets. Chicken “nuggets” are classified in restaurants as “strips,” “fingers,” and “tenders.” Chicken, chicken, chicken…it’s really all the same. I know it’s not my menu to be bored with, but I am. It’s surprising that even in more upscale restaurants, ketchup is brought out for chicken finger dipping sauce. I want to see their options get more creative!
Anyway, my question/predicament is this. I always make another dish for my grandchildren when they come over with their parents for dinner. Next week, we’re ordering out—from a Thai restaurant; the menu certainly won’t include a carton of chicken nuggets! I resist the idea of ripping open a bag of frozen nuggets, popping them in the microwave, and having the smell overpower our yummy Pad Thai before we’ve even opened our chopsticks.
Do you have a kid-friendly dish I can whip up that plays on the grandkids’ likes, but tries something a little new?
A grandma that’s sure it all tastes like chicken
A: Dear Fellow Nana,
This is certainly a case where we’re reminded of how wise it is to choose our battles. As grandparents, it’s not our place to approach the youngsters’ parents and have a heart to heart about how the kids really ought to be made to eat what everyone else is eating. On the one hand, you think, what’s the big deal if the baby decides to use the Pad Thai sauce as finger paint? On the other hand, it seems to be a waste of perfectly good Pad Thai, doesn’t it—and the grandkids’ palettes will mature eventually. At least chicken is high in protein!
It so happens I have an Asian inspired dipping sauce that accompanies my super quick recipe for Parmesan Chicken Fingers (given below)—I think it’s brilliantly suited to kids, seeing as the recipe calls for Corn Flakes!
My blog, FromNana’sKitchenWithLove, addresses the specific issue of what to serve at the kids’ table and how to spice things up without getting down. Check us out, and fan my Nana Network on Facebook—every Monday, I post tips & recipes for the frustrated babysitter in us all.
In the meantime, see my recipe and feel free to write me anytime you need an extra muse—no such thing, in my mind, as too many cooks in the kitchen!
PARMESAN CHICKEN FINGERS
With Green Cashew and Curry Dipping Sauce
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
For the chicken fingers
2 large (6- to 8-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups cornflake crumbs
4 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
For the sauce
1 (1-inch piece) ginger, peeled
1 cup cashews
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
¼ cup fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground curry
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Use a fork to stir together the cornflake crumbs, Parmesan cheese, thyme, and paprika in a shallow bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the chicken pieces in the corn flake mixture. Cook in the skillet, turning once, until golden, about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Drizzle the chicken with lemon juice. Bake in the oven until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Place the ginger into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the cashews and pulse until smooth. Add the sour cream, spinach leaves, brown sugar, and curry. Pulse until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl.
To serve, place the chicken fingers onto a platter garnished with lemon wedges. Serve the sauce on the side for dipping.