The Process of Eating Less Processed

Weaning My Family Off of Processed Foods – While Sneaking in Some Hidden Fruits and Veggies


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Turning Chicken Goo into Chicken Nuggets

Ah… the chicken nugget. I’m pretty sure these were invented at some point when I was a child, and have since become a total kid food staple. My boys love em, whether they’re the McDonalds nuggets or frozen dinosaur shaped ones or anything in between. They’re also ridiculously easy (the processed variety that is).

So my first step in the less processed process is to come up with an alternative to the chicken nugget. The most obvious choice would be chicken nuggets made simply by cutting chicken breast into bite size pieces, breading it and either frying or baking it. Unfortunately, my youngest son is so picky that he won’t eat chicken (or other meat) that hasn’t been chopped up into something that doesn’t really resemble the original product. So I’m attempting to do a more processed chicken nugget.

I found a recipe online, and had actually tried it a couple weeks ago. In the recipe, you grind the chicken breast up in the food processor with some spices, then make balls out of the ensuing goo, bread them and fry them. The result I ended up with was tasty, but ridiculously hard to make (imagine trying to bread a little ball of goo) and the boys didn’t go for it because it just looked to weird to them.

This time, I ground up the chicken breast with some onion powder and garlic salt in the food processor, the spread the goo into a sheet pan lined with tin foil. I put that into the freezer for about an hour and cut it into uniform little squares. I then dipped these in flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs and baked them.

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My results ended up a bit mixed, and also unscientifically messed up. For one thing, while I was in the kitchen with very messy hands breading partially frozen squares of chicken goo, my middle son got into a box of graham crackers, which he shared with the youngest. So… by dinner time the two of them were completely not hungry. (Damn our house that has virtually no cupboards – thus the graham crackers on a shelf where the nearly 4 year old can quickly grab them. And the fact that the closed floor plan means I have no view of the main area while in the kitchen, and when up to my elbows in chicken goo and breading I have to rely on listening to know if the boys are up to no good). So, I have no idea if the youngest two would have like them since they didn’t touch any of their dinner.

There were a couple of things to be learned from this attempt though. One, the uniform shape thing may work since when I put them on the table, my youngest did respond with an enthusiastic “Chitten”. Two, I need to make the goo thicker next time. In order not to make the chicken totally dry, I ended up not getting a nice crispy breading. And so the 6 year old ate them, but complained about a couple “yucky” spots where the breading was soggy. Once I get these right, I will post an actual recipe. For now, they were okay, but not good enough to share.

On the plus side, even though I spent an hour making these to a very lackluster response, the boys had gotten me a bottle of wine for my birthday a couple days ago – a red blend Daddy helped them pick out at Trader Joes, marked solely with a question mark. And my “mystery wine” as the nearly 4 year old calls it wasn’t half bad and took a little of the sting away.

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I’m beginning the process of becoming less processed

I recently took a look at what my family is eating, and realized there is entirely too much processed food. My three boys’ regular snacks include such kid friendly staples as prepackaged little cracker sticks, goldfish crackers, fruit snacks and the occasional piece of fruit or carrots. Their meals (especially lunch) include a loose revolving schedule or macaroni and cheese, hotdogs, chicken nuggets, spaghetti o’s and lunch meat sandwiches. And a large part of why they eat this way (apart from the fact that they will actually eat these things) is the fact that these foods are EASY.

I am a stay at home mom, but I also do freelance graphic design from home. The three boys are 1, 3 and 5, so our house is full of chaos. I know how to cook (and even consider myself to be pretty decent at it), but a lot of times, it isn’t really feasible to take the time to cook something homemade – especially for breakfast or lunch. And even if I did, which I usually do for dinner, odds are that at least one of the three wouldn’t be willing to eat whatever it is.

There are all kinds of blogs and books and the like out there with “kid friendly” recipes that show things like these beautiful quesadillas filled with vegetables. Or really yummy looking pasta dinners with some sort of sauce and again, lots of very visible veggies. Anytime I look at these, I think to myself – do other people’s kids actually regularly eat all these vegetables and interesting foods? I know my kids are picky and have very bland tastes. One won’t really eat most sauces, another won’t do meat that isn’t in some sort of mushed up capacity, and the third will only eat vegetables if they are carrots. This is most likely my fault for catering to these food preferences, but nonetheless, there it is.

There are also all kinds of blogs and books and the like that talk about how to get rid of processed food and the importance of eating real food. I love these. They’re very inspirational. But in some ways, they’re also a little unrealistic (at least for me and my family) as they pretty much completely eliminate ALL processed foods, and revolve around often very pricey organic foods. Also, there’s the time factor. (Have I mentioned the chaos at my house?)

So what is the point of all this? The point is I’m going to attempt to take at least some of the processed food out of my family’s diet. I’m not going to be militant about it. But I’m going to make changes where I think I can and hopefully make my family eat a little healthier along the way. And I’m going to write about that process in hopes that it will help keep me going on it. So there you have it.

Check out our next installment to see how my homemade chicken nuggets go over…