Chicken Nuggets You Can Proudly Serve

I'm always on the lookout for easy, healthy, fun food for my kids. When I stumbled across a recipe for chicken nuggets with veggies in them, I knew it would be a winner. I like to make this recipe, sometimes doubled, portion them into zip-top baggies, and stash in the freezer. I can nuke them for 45 seconds for a quick lunch or throw them in a lunchbox, and they're ready to eat at school lunchtime. And what kid do you know who has ever turned down a nugget, especially when they have dip?

Turkey and Veggie Nuggets (adapted from Cheeky Kitchen)
1 16 oz. package California Veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots), thawed
1 egg
12 oz. ground turkey
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Panko for coating

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the thawed vegetables and egg in a blender. Puree.
Pour puree into large bowl and add ground turkey and spices. Mix until well blended.
Spread Panko in thin layer on waxed paper, parchment paper or large cutting board. Spread turkey mixture over crumbs to 1/2" thickness. Top with Panko.
Cut nuggets in desired shapes using knife or small cookie cutters. Transfer to prepared cookie sheet and spray the tops of the nuggets with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 14-16 minutes.

I usually use a 1 TBS scoop, slightly flatten the resulting ball, then coat in Panko, but I do sometimes use the cookie cutter method. If you want to cut cute little shapes, make sure your meat mixture is chilled; otherwise it will stick to the cutters. If you don't get the shapes into the oven quickly, stick them in the fridge for just a few minutes; this will help them keep that cute little shape you took the time to cut. Spraying the tops of the nuggets is optional, but it will make the Panko on top bake to a nice golden brown and get a bit crispy.

One thing I love about these nuggets is that I can easily get protein and veggies in Cooter's school lunch in one container and, hopefully, with less mess. He's 3 years old, and I hope it makes lunchtime easier for his teachers, Ms. Susan and Ms. Jaclyn, in a classroom of 16 preschoolers. K-Bob also loves them, so they're great for his meal if we go out for lunch or dinner since restaurant kid's meals usually aren't great for toddlers (although I think he would do his best to pick up a hamburger or other sandwich and take a bite).

I'm not a big fan of sneaking (not telling about or lying about the presence of) veggies into a child's diet unless that's the only way (meaning all other options have been seriously tried and failed) they're eating a healthy, balanced meal. Kids have to learn to eat well, and I don't think hiding fruits or veggies sets them up for success when they're making their own food choices. I've been blessed with 2 outstanding eaters and realize that I'm lucky, and many of you have probably struggled to get your kids to eat. However, I don't have a problem adding veggies or fruits to "healthify" a recipe, like substituting applesauce for oil in baked goods or adding extra veggies into tomato sauce. In fact, I do that all the time. It's good for all of us.

- Melissa

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