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Chicken nuggets are gold with kids

Thursday, June 12, 2003

By Nancy Anderson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Chicken nuggets have always been a special treat for Jennifer Doft.

"As a little kid, I always had chicken nuggets on baby-sitter nights when my parents went out," said the former Fox Chapel resident.


She's 22 now and lives in Hermosa Beach, Calif., but never lost her love of nuggets. She made up today's recipe for Easy Healthful Chicken Nuggets while "trying to do something different" with chicken. This spin on her childhood favorite was a big success.

In surveys, nuggets are always in the top five foods kids like to eat, and we know moms read -- and contribute to -- Countdown to Dinner.

So, when Hellmann's sent three new dipping sauces to the office -- Totally BBQ, Rockin' Ranch and Honey Mustard Madness -- we decided to combine Jenny's recipe with the sauces and invite some nugget-lovin' kids to test them. Who could be a better judge?

Friends John and Marcy Bilyak have two such afficionados. We've seen them lustily pack away nuggets at fast-food restaurants.

They were only too happy to participate in this "experiment."

Their sons, Brandon, almost 8, and Matthew, 5 1/2, arrived fresh from swimming practice, with wet hair and whopping appetites.

I was ready with a huge tray (the recipe makes a lot) of good-smelling homemade nuggets fresh from the oven, french fries, cooked broccoli florets and raw carrots. (Mom recommended the veggies.)

The dipping sauces were in three small bowls with the labeled bottles behind them so the boys could be sure which was which.

They loaded their milk with Hershey's syrup and dug into dinner.

Brandon, the nugget gourmet, bit into his first (of at least 20) nugget, chewed a bit and with obvious relish said, "This is delicious!"

After about a dozen, he wanted to know, "When are these going on the market?"

He's a purist, however, who doesn't like his food contaminated by contact of any kind -- the four foods on his plate didn't touch each other and the fries were naked.

I wondered how he was going to handle tasting the sauces. That was part of his job as "tester" and he knew it.

The tiniest corner of a nugget made a pinhead-sized connection with the BBQ sauce -- once -- the merest wisp of Ranch kissed a carrot -- once -- and the Honey Mustard? It didn't have a chance.

"I'll try that one last," he said, eyeing it warily. Translation: "I'd rather die than eat that." So, while Brandon gave the nuggets two thumbs up, he wouldn't recommend the sauces.

Matthew, on the other hand, dipped away with abandon. Nuggets and veggies heartily went into all three sauces with comments along the way.

"M-m-m-m, this is good." "I like that one." "This is pretty tasty." Ketchup dotted his fries. He was enjoying a culinary feast.

These little chicken bites were tender and juicy and hit the spot. The sauces were tangy, flavorful and appealing, especially on the veggies, and we were eating everything with our fingers -- wow, life is good.

Together, we polished off nearly a pound and a half of chicken -- nine nuggets were left -- before a dessert of chocolate cookies with tiny red, white and blue stars, accompanied by more chocolate milk.

"Swimming practice makes kids hungry" isn't the only explanation for why this meal was such a hit. It was kid-friendly and kid-pleasing, and the adults didn't complain either.

Easy Healthful Chicken Nuggets

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks (we asked the butcher at Giant Eagle to do this for us)

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
  • or seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons (we needed 4 to hit each nugget) light
  • butter, melted
  • Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with Release nonstick foil. Pour milk and crumbs into separate bowls (we used plastic bags). If using corn flakes, season with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder as desired (we used seasoned bread crumbs).

Dip chicken pieces into milk, then into crumbs and coat thoroughly. Place in single layer on baking sheet. Drizzle butter over nuggets, sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle.

Serve with your favorite dip (or dips). Serves 4.

Send your recipes to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to:nanderson@post-gazette.com . Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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