They say that nothing can help prepare you for parenthood. It’s unpredictable, frustrating, beautiful, empowering, exhausting, soul satisfying… it’s the most rewarding aspect of my entire life. And even though there have been (and will be) times in my daughter’s life that are more challenging than others, nothing breaks a mother’s heart more than when they’re sick. My goofy, energetic munchkin has been temporarily replaced by a sad, lethargic little puddle of vulnerability. And this Mama Bear has never felt so utterly helpless and yet so important in my entire life.
“Mama Bear mode” was triggered on day one, let’s be honest, so going to bat today versus any other day isn’t very different. And interestingly, I think L’s day one (Mama Bear Inauguration Day) correlates to the shift in how I view food. As you’d expect, becoming a parent opens your eyes to aspects of your life/world that seemed futile before. Meh, who cares where this chicken I’m eating came from; who cares that I don’t know what half of the ingredients listed on the box of cereal are; Is it cheap? Sure! I’ll get that one then… etc, etc, etc. Believe it or not, most chefs succumb to the marketing ploys of the modern food industry too. But ever since the munchkin came into my life, I’ve slowly started making changes to our personal food culture- changes that I hope will positively shape her entire future but also help our environment as well. I may not have an organic farm (yet) or purchase all our produce from CSAs (soon!), but I can make small changes now that can affect major change later.
Sooo, chicken nuggets.
My former chef self is manically laughing at me, for sure, but these chicken nuggets are just one small piece of that life-changing puzzle… and delish too. Prompted by my super picky eater (ugh…a painful admission for a chef to make. Apparently 2 year olds don’t care that you were a professional chef and can cook amazing food), I developed this insanely easy, healthy, natural alternative to the questionable “chicken” nuggets that are on the market now (even the “healthy” products contain ingredients I disagree with!). And I even gave myself bonus points for the fact that she enjoyed them too! Call this “A Mama Bear win” for sure.
Toddler-Approved Chicken Nuggets
Yields 40 nuggets
- 3 lbs chicken things, boneless and skinless
- 2 lbs chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
- 4 cups baby spinach, wilted in boiling water, drained and water squeezed out or leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 celery stalk
- ¼ onion, rough chop
- 1 carrot (or leftover baby carrots hanging out in the fridge)
- 2 tbsp flax seed, optional
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 5 cups of you child’s favorite cracker, ground
- Salt, to taste (if using. Omit if prefer salt free)
Start by cooking your carrots, garlic, celery, and onions- I steamed mine (retains more nutrients) but you can roast, boil, whatever is easiest. Just make sure they are soft. Add the cooked veg, spinach, chicken breasts and thighs, eggs, flax seed, salt, and 1 cup of the ground crackers. Blend in food processor until combined. Roll into desired shape (Mickey Mouse shape optional), coat in remaining ground cracker, and place on sheet pan lined with parchment. Place in freezer until frozen and package for later use or cook in 400 oven for 10-15 minutes (until golden brown). Serve with toddler condiment of choice!