Chicken nugget meatballs

A few weeks ago I had an idea to make some simple chicken meatballs. Most of my kids will eat meatballs, so it's usually a good easy weeknight meal for us. With some pasta and a salad, we've got a good dinner and it isn't much work. But I wanted to lighted them up a bit this time, so I thought I'd make them with chicken instead of my usual combination of beef & pork (or frozen!). 

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And in doing so, something magical happened...

I mixed these up and started browning them, and tasted one. I realized that it tasted an awful lot like a chicken nugget (in a good way!). I have one super picky child who eats nothing, but chicken nuggets are on her very short list.

So I asked her if she would be willing to taste this thing I just made that tastes just like a chicken nugget. 

She agreed. And she liked it! I was giddy!

If you have an extreme picky eater, then you understand the joy you feel when you discover something they will eat that is homemade and relatively healthy.

I've made homemade chicken nuggets before, but it seemed so labor intensive that I didn't do it again. They had to be shaped like nuggets, and rolled in breading - a lot of work for nuggets. But for these I just used a cookie scoop to get the rough balls, and then finished rolling and dropped in a pan with some oil. I think because they had bread crumbs in the mix then they had a feeling of a crust, without having to actually crust them. It was easy and quick!

My original plan had been to plop all of these in a pot of sauce to finish cooking, but since she liked them I decided to not do that. I instead cooked them through and then put in a couple of oven proof dishes. I kept one dish of them plain, and the other I topped with sauce & cheese - so it had a bit of a chicken parmesan taste to it. 

This is definitely one of those guideline type of recipes. This is the approximate ingredients that I used, but these quantities are not mandatory and really it's more of an eyeball type thing. 

Ingredients:

  • ground white meat chicken - around 2 pounds
  • Italian style seasoned bread crumbs - a cup or so
  • eggs - 2 or 3
  • garlic powder - a teaspoon or so
  • onion powder - a teaspoon or so
  • fresh ground pepper
  • oil for cooking

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together except the oil. The consistency should be bit like dough - you should be able to form it into shape without it falling apart or seeming too wet. It's the combination of bread crumbs + eggs that help hold this together. If your mixture seems too wet, add a bit more bread crumbs. Too dry, add another egg.

Generally for this kind of thing it's a good idea to cook a little bit to taste and check for seasoning before you cook the whole lot. Seasoned bread crumbs can often have a lot of salt in them, so I wouldn't salt this much if at all until you've tasted. Pinch off a bit and put it in a hot pan to cook, and then taste. Then add salt as needed. Then when you are happy with the seasoning you can shape into meatballs. I use a small cookie scoop, drop the scooped bit into my hands, finish shaping into a ball, and then put in my pan.

Brown on all sides in a pan with a bit of vegetable oil over medium heat. They likely won't be cooked all the way through, so you'll need to either turn down your heat and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or you can put them in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes. 

You could also cook these from star to finish in the oven - I'd do a foil lined baking sheet, at 350 for probably 20-30 minutes.

We had ours with sauce & pasta. They'd be great just dipped in ketchup too. 

Enjoy!

Homemade "instant" oatmeal

Homemade "instant" oatmeal

It totally kills me that my kids prefer those instant oatmeal packets over real cooked oats.  But lately I'm really trying to focus on choosing my battles, and trying to force people to learn to like oatmeal with some texture over the creamy, mushy stuff, just seems like a fight that's not worth fighting at this stage, especially on an already manic school day morning.  But instant oatmeal packets have all kinds of strikes against them, and I just can't bring myself to buy them any more.  The artificial flavorings in so many of the mainstream brands, the amount of sugar, and the cost - with 4 kids eating two packets each, we would use whole box at one meal.  I have bought some organic ones before, which are a little better, but they still have so much sugar and are even more expensive. I had seen several mentions on various food blogs and pinterest boards about making your own, so I thought I'd give it a try. 

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Pancake muffins

I love a good cooking shortcut - or I guess we call them "hacks" these days. So here is one of my favorite breakfast hacks: muffins made from pancake batter. 

Mini Pancake Muffins | WhatLisaCooks.com

Muffins made from pancake batter? Yes! It totally works.

pancake batter muffins | whatlisacooks.com
pancake batter mini muffins | WhatLisaCooks.com

When I make pancakes I always make extra batter.

If you look at my breakfast for lunch posts, you'll see that we make a lot of lunches with leftover pancakes. Pancakes refrigerate well and freeze great and they are a perfect item to have on hand for quick and easy breakfasts and lunches. 

But sometimes I get about halfway through the batter and I'm just feeling done with standing over the stove and cooking pancakes.

So I take the rest and just make muffins! 

All you do is fill greased (or paper lined) mini muffin pans with the batter and then top as you like.

These work best with mini muffin pans because pancake batter is lighter than regular muffin batter, so bigger muffins fall a little and don't look quite as pretty. But bite sized pancake muffins are perfect. You can make them plain, or you can dress them up.  I like to fill all the spots with batter, and then add stuff to the top.

In this batch you can see that I did three different flavors. I put a couple of blueberries in some, a big frozen raspberry in the middle of some, and the rest I just sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar.  

They are so good - light and moist and just perfectly sweet enough. They are the perfect size for little hands and small enough to just pop in your mouth, and they make a great portable breakfast. 

pancake muffin bites | whatlisacooks.com

As for the pancake recipe - I make my own. Pancakes are so easy to make from scratch, it's almost silly. You can read my pancake recipe here. You'll note in my recipe that I say that the butter is optional, but I think it's necessary for muffins - it really helps to keep them from sticking. If you don't want to take the time to melt and cool butter, I've substituted vegetable oil for the butter and they still come out great. 

You can totally do this with a store bought pancake mix if you prefer, I would just gently suggest that you try to find one with no artificial ingredients. For extra tasty pancakes, I always add a little maple syrup to the batter. This makes them taste great on their own, which means that for a quick weekday breakfast or lunch you don't need to get out all that sticky syrup. 

Pancake Muffins

  • Mixed pancake batter (be sure to include the butter or oil, and add a little extra sweetener)
  • oil of choice for muffin pans, or muffin cups
  • mini muffin pan
  • toppings / fillings of choice: berries, chocolate chips, cinnamon & sugar, etc.

Preheat oven to 350, or 325 convection. Grease mini muffin pans, or line with muffin papers.

Prepare your pancake batter as usual. Be sure to include the butter or oil called for in the recipe, and add a little extra sweetener. I usually sweeten my pancake batter with maple syrup. My recipe calls for enough syrup to make the batter nicely sweet without needing to add extra syrup when you eat them. But if you're using a different recipe, or a box mix, I would recommend that you add a few tablespoons of extra syrup or sugar. 

Fill your muffin cups about half way with pancake batter. Add toppings as desired - a piece of fruit, a frozen berry, a little sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes for mini muffins (time will vary depending on your oven temperature).

Enjoy!

~ Lisa

 
Make muffins from pancake batter! www.whatlisacooks.com