on saturday, i got a pretty serious yen for something Not Healthy, though happily my commitment to my diet and my goal to take off the pounds that just seem to come on without warning stayed true.
so i decided it was time to trick my tastebuds by indulging in The Great Breaded Food Fest 2010.
how can this be? isn't breaded food of the devil? only when it's fried, kids, only when it's fried.
i decided that i would do some homemade chicken nuggets (with purchased wing sauce for my dear husband, who would order that at chili's every single day of the week if provided the opportunity) and zucchini coins/fries.
first rule of thumb when you're doing breading: supplement your egg mixture with something else.
why? because the egg mixture is the perfect place to hide vegetable puree. behold the egg mixture for the chicken--a mix of one egg and 1/2 cup pureed carrots. hello, vitamins!
(don't worry. you can't taste it, and it keeps the chicken ridiculously moist.)
you can use egg whites only if you are concerned about cholesterol or fat. the egg white is the sticky stuff anyway, but i only used one egg each for about 1 1/2 zucchini and almost a pound of chicken.
second rule of thumb when using bread crumbs: doctor up the bread crumb mixture.
frankly, i'm a big believer in spice now. i used to be fairly bland in my eating, but there's nothing that a little garlic salt can't make better, or a store-bought spaghetti sauce that can't use a little extra oregano, basil, and garlic powder. just because we're eating healthy foods doesn't mean they have to be boring.
so to my bread crumb mixture for the chicken nuggets, i added some garlic powder and parmesan cheese. when you're planning on baking something breaded instead of frying it, i think the parmesan is important in the browning process. it also adds a great deal of flavor without many calories (1 tbsp is about 20 calories, if you're using the reduced fat version; it's about the same calorie count, with more fat for the regular version). you can toss anything in there, as long as it's dry. for the zucchini, for example, i used basil, oregano, garlic powder, and parmesan.
(and, yes, glopping IS a formal term.)
for the chicken nuggets, i used two fairly large frozen chicken breasts, defrosted and cut into chicken nugget size. you can do chicken strips, if you like, but you won't get as many from your two breasts.
third rule of using bread crumbs: dredge, dredge, dredge but don't overdredge.
for the chicken nuggets, i dip the chicken piece into the carrot/egg mix, then into the breadcrumbs. i cover the nugget, but i shake off the excess. i ended up using about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, though i had to add a little more at the end. i always have leftover breadcrumbs, but they are the ones that don't really stick anymore and aren't usable, so have the bread crumbs and assorted additions handy. the same dredging process happened for the zucchini fries as well, though i was able to use less.
fourth rule of using bread crumbs: find ways to make the breadcrumbs crispy.
for the chicken nuggets, i took a page from the bisquick baked fried chicken recipe and decided to heat the pan ahead of time. instead of butter, i used olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan (about 2 tbsp for a large pan, though i added a bit more for the middle of the pan). heat the oven to a high temp (mine was 450) and put the pan in for a few minutes. take it out, and put your dredged chicken pieces directly on it. at first, you'll hear a sizzle when they hit.
that's a GOOD thing, as it's how the crispiness will happen.
this is what mine looked like in the oven:
the zucchini fries were much easier to manage. i just put them in the oven, again at 450, for about 12 to 15 minutes; turn once and take them out when they are crispy and tender enough for your liking. you need zero oil for this recipe, though if you don't have a really non-stick pan, you'll hate your life.
with the zucchini, you can cut them into medallion shape or into wedges. either one works well with dredging. having done this twice now, i suggest the wedges--unless you hate the texture/taste of zucchini. then, if you cut them skinny enough into medallions, you cannot taste them at all. but the wedges have the feel of fries and i think they have a much more delicious taste--and this from a person who really doesn't like zucchini in traditional steamed/healthy preparations.
the end result of The Great Breaded Food Fest looked a little something like this:
(sorry for the bad lighting.)
on the right are the chicken nuggets (told you they got a little bit...done), on the top are the zucchini medallions, and on the left are, obviously, peas. the plate was just too beige--i needed some nutritious color!
(not pictured: the curry sour cream and spicy marinara sauce that i made as dipping sauces. everything's better with a dipping sauce, and the zucchini is DELICIOUS with marinara sauce.)
bottom line: breading is not of the devil. bread crumbs are calorically dense, but you don't have to use much. if you're smart, and substitute, substitute, substitute, you can enjoy the same foods that you always have but feel MUCH less guilty about it. this is a good thing.
(and i made the zucchini again yesterday for lunch and i'm making them again today. they are just that good.)
ps: i made ashlee's apple banana muffins. they are DELICIOUS. everyone in my house is a fan. try them!