Monday, April 12, 2010

Kid Friendly Homemade: Chicken Fingers, Mac & Cheese & Oven Baked Fries

Most American kids love their chicken nuggets, mac & cheese and french fries. These homemade versions are quick and easy and much more healthy than fast food. Give them a try and see how easy it can be to make homemade versions of your kids' favorite boxed or processed foods. My kids will eat on this pan of mac & cheese all week long and I send it in a thermos for lunch. If you have extra chicken breasts, make lots of chicken fingers, flash freeze them and keep them in a ziploc in the freezer for a busy day. Read my note at the end about how to flash freeze your chicken fingers.

Macaroni & Cheese

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (7 ounces)

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

¼ tsp ground dry mustard (optional)

2 cups milk

2 cups shredded or cubed sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz)

Heat oven to 350. Cook macaroni as directed on package, drain. While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Sitr in flour, salt, pepper & mustard. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in cheese. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Gently stir cooked macaroni into cheese (I do this in the baking dish I’m using). Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

*healthy twist: use whole wheat pasta (you can use rotini or any shape is fine) or gluten free pasta.They will never know!

Homemade chicken nuggets & fries

two options - first is gluten free using crushed potato chips, second uses flour for breading

Crunchy Chicken Strips

Cut up chicken breasts into strips

Melt butter in baking dish (or use canola oil)

Crush some potato chips (or use bread crumbs)

Dip chicken strips in melted butter/oil, then roll in crushed chips/bread crumbs

Bake at 400 for about 20-30 minutes or until golden (might need to flip them halfway through
Breaded Chicken Strips

Cut chicken breast into strips and place in buttermilk (or any milk – even rice milk works) for 10 minutes to soak.

Mix in another bowl 1 cup of flour, salt, pepper. Drizzle some of the milk in the flour and mix with a fork to get some clumps going. Roll chicken in the flour mixture and place in a skillet with hot canola oil. Fry a few minutes on each side until browned and cooked through. You can make these in bulk and freeze them for later. Lay them out on a cookie sheet, place in freezer for 20-30 minutes or until frozen, then dump them in a Ziploc bag to store in your freezer for a busy day.

Super Easy Oven-Baked Fries
If you prefer fries instead of mac & cheese: Just cut up some washed potatoes (peeled or unpeeled), toss with olive oil & salt and bake at 425 for about 20 minutes (works great with sweet potatoes too).

*To flash freeze chicken nuggets: Cook the nuggets/fingers as directed above but shorten the cooking time by 5 minutes. Let them cool, then place them (still on a baking sheet or other platter with space in between them) in the freezer. Leave them for 1-3 hours or until completely frozen, then store them in an airtight bag or plastic container in the freezer for 1-3 months. When ready to reheat a few at a time, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the chicken for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and sizzling, but not overcooked. 

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