Cooking

Homemade Happy Meals

Unlike all of the kale smoothie-guzzling children of today, I grew up not liking veggies so much. I liked happy meals. They were crunchy and salty and came with toys.

 Thus, most of my food memories from childhood are crispy and golden-brown. Chicken nuggets, french fries, corn dogs, fish sticks, etc. I guess I found proteins less intimidating when coated in breading and ketchup. 

And I’m not going to lie.  Even thought I’ve developed a more adventurous palate, a true love of produce, and a passion for homemade meals, I still have a soft spot for these kid/comfort foods. Also, when you’re a parent at home making three meals and two snacks a day (at least), I definitely can’t sneer at something you can just toss in the oven to cook while trying to do a dozen other things.

So. I’ve recently attempted at making homemade versions of all of these favorites, being sure to offer healthy sides too. The cooking process is a lot more involved and everything had a wonky shape. However, the results are seriously tasty and slightly more nutritious than their frozen store-bought counterparts. 

Below are some successful recipes I think you would love if you tried:

Fish Sticks
I saw this recipe on a Food Network commercial and knew I wanted to make it. (Thanks, Giada!) These fish sticks are way more substantial than the frozen ones. Less breading and more fish means that you could easily fill up on just four sticks. And this dipping sauce is finger-licking good, just ask Rosie. It did take me awhile to get the hang of removing the skin off the salmon (I eventually just had to ask my brother how to do it), but I’d be up for making these again soon!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (18-ounce) center-cut salmon fillet, about 9 by 4 inches, skinned
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
  • Rinse the salmon fillet and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the fish in half to make 2 fillets each about 4 by 4 1/2-inches in size. Starting on the longest edge, slice the fillets into 1/2-inch pieces. Lay the widest pieces, from the center, cut side down, and slice in half lengthwise so all the pieces are equally about 1/2 by 1/2 by 4 1/2-inches in size.
  • Place the flour in a medium bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Place the egg whites in another bowl and beat until frothy, about 30 seconds. Combine the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a third bowl.
  • Coat the salmon pieces in the seasoned flour and pat to remove any excess flour. Dip the floured salmon in the egg whites and then into the Parmesan mixture, gently pressing the mixture into the fish. Place the breaded salmon pieces on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with the olive oil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • Mix the mayonnaise, yogurt, Dijon mustard, and fresh chives in a small dipping bowl. Boom.
Chicken Nuggets

I love how these turned out! They were full of flavor and texture. Not to mention it made me feel like a domestic rock star to bring something from Pinterest to life that wasn’t complicated at all.  (Original recipe here.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups corn flakes
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.
  • Put flakes in large plastic bag and crush to fine texture. Pour into medium-sized bowl.
  • Add cheese, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper to corn flakes.
  • Crack and whisk eggs in a separate small bowl.
  • Place flower in a separate small bowl.
  • To bread chicken, coat chicken piece in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in the egg, coat in corn flake mixture.
  • Arrange chicken on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown (about 12-15 minutes)

For dipping, I whisked together equal parts yellow mustard and honey to get (you guessed it!) a tasty honey mustard sauce.

Veggie Bites

These little guys are awesome for several reasons. First, they only take ten minutes to prep. Secondly, my girls love them. Cece ate three last time I made. Lastly, they don’t require many ingredients. You probably have everything in your house. (Original recipe here.)


Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. package of frozen veggies (steam, drain, and chop)
  • 1 ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 cup of seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
Directions
  • Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • With your hands, form small patties and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes, turning the patties after the first 15 minutes.
  • Let cool and enjoy!


Fruit Bars



And lastly, a yummy little snack that doesn’t require bread crumbs! I’ve seen so many awesome fruit pizza recipes online, but most use a sugar cookie as the “crust” and I wanted to do something slightly less sugary than that. So I came up with these:


Ingredients:

  • Fresh fruit of your choice
  • graham crackers
  • Vanilla greek yogurt
  • cinnamon
Directions:
  • Break apart graham crackers (or don’t).
  • Spread yogurt on cracker.
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Arrange your fruit of choice in a delightful way.
  • Serve to your delightful child.

I promise, if you try even one of these, you won’t be disappointed! Thanks for reading my first food/recipe post in a long time. Hoping to put more of these out there soon!

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