January 20, 2010
It’s no secret that I don’t usually cook kid menu staples like mac and cheese, plain pasta with butter, hot dogs or chicken fingers. It’s not that I don’t like (some of) these foods when they are home made with whole ingredients—I do!–but only every once and a while, and it never seems the right time to make them. I’d much rather invest the same amount of time to make more interesting and healthier foods.
But now we’re talking kids party, and you can’t have a kids party without some reliable kid friendly food. Not only does my “everything in moderation” philosophy apply here, but so does my (our!) need for convenience. It’s super easy to turn up the health and sophistication of chicken fingers, plus you can make them ahead of time, which is especially important for party food (but also great for any weeknight meal or packed lunch food).
As you read in yesterday’s post, these chicken fingers can be prepped more than a week ahead of time. Simply make them as directed and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Slip the entire cookie sheet in your freezer for about an hour, until the strips are solid, then transfer to a heavy duty zip lock bag for storing. If you’re making more than fits on a single cookie sheet, freeze the chicken in batches (storing the strips waiting to be frozen in the fridge).
The adults liked these chicken fingers as much as the kids! I credit my (restrained) use of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, a staple in creole cooking according to my (soon to be!) brother-in-law, a New Orleans native. If you don’t have or can’t get your hands on some, make your own spice mix with a little cayenne, salt or celery salt, garlic and onion powder. I also offered the adults apricot mustard (dijon mixed with peach apricot jam; you can use any orange colored jam to sweeten the mustard), a slightly more refined accompaniment than ketchup.
Don’t forget to bookmark the entire menu and planning timeline for your next kids party!
Baked Chicken Fingers
(can be served to kids 8+ mos)
1 c plain organic breadcrumbs
1/4 c organic wheat germ
1/2 c organic corn flake cereal
2 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (or see above to make your own spice mix)
6 large organic eggs
3 tbsp organic mustard
2 lbs organic chicken breast, cut into 1/2 – 3/4″ strips
vegetable oil cooking spray
1. If cooking these right away, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put breadcrumbs, wheat germ, cereal and seasoning in a food processor and process until you have an even crumb size throughout. Put in a wide, shallow bowl and set aside.
2. Lightly beat eggs with mustard.
3. Dip chicken strips in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Then coat both sides in breadcrumb mixture, pressing to make sure the coating stays on. Lay flat and set aside until you’re ready to cook or freeze.
4. If freezing: place chicken fingers in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Slip the entire cookie sheet in your freezer for about an hour, until the strips are solid, then transfer to a heavy duty zip lock bag for storing. If you’re making more than fits on a single cookie sheet, freeze strips in batches (storing the chicken waiting to be frozen in the fridge).
To cook (from fresh OR frozen): Place chicken strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet that’s been prepped with cooking oil spray. Spray the top of the chicken with more oil. Cook in preheated oven (400 degrees) until crisp and brown, about 12-14 minutes if cooking fresh or 18 minutes if cooking from frozen.