Lentil + Carrot Chicken Nuggets

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The classics are the classics for a reason—they're delicious!

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Chicken nuggets are simple and simply tasty, and with so many options out there—from the grocery store to McDonalds—you may ask yourself, why make them myself?

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Well, I'll tell you why!

These nuggets are worth making because they're unlike anything you can buy.

They're actually half lentils and carrots, and yet they taste like the good-old fashioned chicken nuggets you (and your kids!) are used to! 

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The lentils get slightly pureed, which allows them to pretty much melt into the meat.

As for the carrots, you will see some small specks of them in the mix—so if your kids are super weary, you can always skip them.

Or if you’re feeling crazy, you could use parsnips instead!

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Like many of my toddler recipes, these are the kinds of things that I make huge batches of and freeze.

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And a freezer full of chicken nuggets is a happy freezer indeed!!

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Lentil + Carrot Chicken Nuggets

servings: 36 nuggets

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry split red lentils
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken stock and lentils in a small saucepan. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cook the lentils until the broth is fully absorbed and the lentils are very soft—about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are crumb-like in texture—ground, but not pureed. Then transfer the cooked lentils to the food processor with the carrots and pulse to combine the ingredients.
  3. Next add the chicken, parmesan, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to the food processor and pulse again until all ingredients are just combined; avoid overmixing.
  4. Scoop the mixture by heaping tablespoons and shape it by hand into nuggets (the easiest way to do this is to form the mixture into a ball, then smash it flat and add dents and curves by hand). Then coat each nugget well in the breadcrumbs.
  5. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add 10 to 12 nuggets and cook them until all sides of the nuggets are golden brown—4 to 6 minutes per side. Repeat this process until all of the nuggets have been cooked.

Notes:

  • If you prefer to bake the nuggets rather than frying them, preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the prepared nuggets on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Spray the nuggets with olive oil cooking spray and bake them until they are light golden and cooked through—about 15 to 20 minutes. Note that the nuggets will be paler in color—not as brown—than if you were to cook them as in Step 5.
  • From frozen, reheat the nuggets at 375°F for 8 to 10 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Banana Carrot Spinach Oat Muffins

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Stop.

Do not look at this muffin and say, "EW! It's green!"

Instead, I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you're eating a mini banana bread muffin.

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Now open your eyes.

This is when you discover that this same weird green muffin tastes just like banana bread.

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But instead of using banana bread ingredients, I’m using a bag of spinach, some carrots, oats, bananas, and a touch of maple syrup to create a muffin that packs some serious nutritional punch.

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And it's as simple as throwing everything in your food processor, blending it up, and baking.

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I’m telling you, every time I eat one, I have to remind myself that they're good for me.

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And if you’re on board, maybe your kids will be too.

And if you have a little one like mine, they might not yet realize that most kids think a green muffin is a scary thing. 

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Banana Carrot Spinach Oat Muffins

servings: 36 mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed + squeezed dry (about 1 cup after squeezed)
  • 2½ cups rolled oats, more for a garnish
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 6 ounces)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the spinach to a blender or food processor and pulse until it is finely chopped and almost pureed.
  2. Add the oats, bananas, carrots, maple syrup, eggs, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt to the spinach, then pulse until all ingredients are well-combined and the mixture is almost pureed, but not quite smooth. You may have to stop and stir the mixture a bit to make sure it doesn’t contain any large chunks.
  3. Scoop the batter evenly into 36 cups of a mini muffin tin prepared with cooking spray, then top each muffin with a light sprinkle of the reserved oats.
  4. Bake the muffins until a knife inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean and dry —24 to 28 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce with Pasta

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When I create a recipe, I’m always thinking about what different versions of a dish I can suggest to different groups of people.

For instance, sometimes I think about how to make my vegetarian recipes “meaty.”

Or I might toss out some ideas about how to make a dish more family-friendly (something adults can enjoy that kids will also eat!).

I love when—with just a few tweaks—you can make a couple of versions of a meal at the same time, so everyone is satisfied.

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And it’s always a bonus if we get our kids to eat their veggies!

This Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce is one of the most melt-in-your-mouth pasta sauces I’ve ever made.

And I honestly can’t tell the difference between this version and the full-on-million-calorie version.

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Actually, I can tell the difference, oh-so-slightly. And I’m not lying when I say I like this one better.

It’s garlicky, cheesy, and creamy—as you would expect.

But the cauliflower adds a whole new element that deepens the flavor and literally makes you want to eat the sauce with a spoon (nooooo, I’ve never done that 😉).

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And by dividing the sauce in two and adding parsley and pepper to one half and peas to the other, you’ve got a dish that makes both parents and kids happy.

Grownup version: linguine, parsley + freshly ground black pepper.

Grownup version: linguine, parsley + freshly ground black pepper.

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce with Pasta

servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, broken or cut into bite-size florets (about 5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound pasta shells
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the pasta shells. To a second large pot, add the cauliflower, chicken stock, and garlic. Bring this mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and cook until the cauliflower is very soft—10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, heavy cream, salt, and pepper, and puree until very smooth.
  3. When the water boils, add the pasta shells and cook according to the package directions; drain when done.
  4. To serve, fold the cauliflower sauce and the peas into the pasta.

Notes:

  • The kid’s version is delicious! But if you want to make it a little more adult, replace the pasta shells with linguine. And instead of folding peas in with the cauliflower sauce, fold in about 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Divide among four bowls and top with parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Voilà!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Zucchini Soup

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Tomato soup is fantastic!

And it’s great for those cold months when you really just need some tomato soup and grilled cheese in your belly…

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But we’re not quite there yet.

And tomato soup’s cousin has come to town, ready to play!

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I thought it would be fun to experiment with some zucchini (which we all might have an abundance of from our gardens right now), and make it into a soup.

But at the same time I say that, I honestly had no idea it would be this good!

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Start with some onions and garlic (obviously, the best way to start!)…

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Then add some zucchini and stock…

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Puree with avocado for creaminess, and then some parm for kick…

And that’s it!

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It’s silky and light, but still totally satisfying.

If your kids don’t gobble it right up, you’ll have no problem eating all the leftovers!

And when the leftovers are gone, just remember how easy it was to prepare everything and get it on the stove!

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Zucchini Soup

servings: 2; makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1½ pounds total), peeled + grated, with peels reserved for a garnish
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ medium avocado
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook them until they are softened but not brown—3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the grated zucchini and stock, then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook covered until the zucchini is very soft—about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Use a soupspoon to scoop the flesh into a blender. Then add the cooked zucchini mixture to the blender and puree its contents until smooth.
  4. Transfer the soup back to the pot and add the parmesan, salt, and thyme, cooking over medium-high until the soup is heated through, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Serve by dividing the soup into two bowls and garnishing each with the reserved zucchini peels. If you desire, you can also garnish the soup with ground black pepper or additional parmesan cheese.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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White Bean Pancakes

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Every Sunday my husband takes my daughter, Ivy, to the diner for pancakes while I try to catch up on a weeks-worth of sleep.

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Ivy LOVES pancakes.

And when I found out that her iron levels were a little on the low side, I started thinking about how I could get more iron into her diet.

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Pancakes were just the thing!

I’ve done Acorn Squash Pancakes, so I figured why not try a new version by adding an iron-rich bean instead of the squash?!

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I put a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans in my batter, and I’m telling you, the result looks and tastes JUST LIKE regular pancakes!

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It was so simple (opening a can of beans!) to turn a semi-indulgent breakfast into one we can feel really good about eating!

It’s easy to “eat healthy” when you’re eating like this!

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White Bean Pancakes

makes: 10 to 12 medium (4 to 5 inches in diameter) pancakes

Ingredients:

  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans (about 1¾ cups), rinsed + drained
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach (about 1 cup), thawed + drained (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Add the beans, flour, milk, spinach (if desired), eggs, baking powder, vanilla, and salt to a blender, and blend this mixture until it is smooth.
  2. Next, add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, pour about ½ cup of the batter into the pan; this will make one pancake about 4 inches in diameter. Cook the batter until bubbles start to pop on its surface. Then flip the pancake and cook it until the other side is also brown and the edges are dry—about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.
  3. Serve with extra butter, syrup, fruit, or whatever you like!

Notes:

  • If you prefer fluffier pancakes, separate the yolks and whites of the eggs. Rather than following Step 1 as written, add the beans, flour, milk, spinach (if desired), egg yolks, baking powder, vanilla, and salt, to a blender, and blend this mixture until it is completely smooth; then transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with a handheld electric mixer on medium-high until they are white and fluffy and have soft peaks (they should be about 4 times larger than their starting size)—about 2 minutes; you could also whisk by hand or do this in a stand mixer. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the bean and flour mixture, deflating them as little as possible. Then proceed to Step 2 as written above.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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