Cutest Review

My seven year old son had to write a review or critique of something in his first grade class.  He chose to write about the restaurant that’s just opened near us (and I’m actually bartending at a couple of times a week).  I had to share the review because in my thoroughly biased opinion, it is adorable.  

7 year old's opinion

7 year old’s opinion

My eldest son, who is now 12, said that it should’ve read “if you like high quality food” instead of “chicken fingers”, but everyone’s a critic.

Some people might see this and may think, “Vanessa allows her kids chicken fingers?” but that is often a misconception on my food views.  Yes, I do allow chicken fingers and fries and other stuff, just not all the time. Plus The Spinning Wheel’s chicken fingers are whole pieces of breast meat with their own breading.  It’s not made of mechanically separated parts mixed with who-knows-what.  

I have a couple of recipes for those who’d like to make their own at home. My original one is here and another one has a crunchy coating. They’re much, much healthier than the majority of prepared chicken fingers/nuggets/popcorn you’ll find in the stores or fast food places. 

One thing I find I often need to do if we eat out and they order from the children’s menu, is to order a side of vegetables or a salad, because too commonly, restaurants don’t serve vegetables with the kids’ meals.  

If you take your kids out to eat, do they share their opinions on the food?  Do they get a balanced meal? 

Most kids will eat (HOMEMADE) chicken nuggets


Most kids will eat (HOMEMADE) chicken nuggets

Crunchy Chicken Nuggets

Since the day before I’d made homemade pot stickers which my youngest refused to eat.  He ended up going to bed without eating a proper dinner.  I felt guilty so on this night I made a meal I knew they would all like without complaint— chicken nuggets, roasted potatoes (looked just like French fries), roasted sweet potatoes (for me) and broccoli (everyone’s favorite).  I decided to add a little crunch to the coating of the chicken.  I’ve found most kids like crunchy foods and though most kids will eat chicken nuggets I thought it would be nice to add the texture. 

To make the bread crumbs crunchy I added 2 Lundberg Wild Rice Organic Rice Cakes to 2 Oat Nut sandwich bread slices in the food processor.  Once it was in crumbs I added olive oil, Penzy’s Mural of Flavor, garlic powder, salt and pepper and mixed them all in.  In a bowl of milk I dunked the pieces of cut up boneless chicken breast then dipped them in the bread/rice cake mixture.  I baked them at 350 for 15-20 minutes then upped the oven temp to 450 for another 5+ minutes to get them nicely browned. 

Yes, the boys all liked them.  My youngest even had some leftovers for lunch the following day. 

Yes, he liked dinner, just not getting his photo taken!

Grounded Buffalo Chicken

I’ve loved the taste of Buffalo wings (spicy chicken wings originally from Buffalo, New York) since I was first introduced to them in the mid to late eighties by my older brother who went to university at RPI in Troy, NY.  As they are usually too spicy for most young kids, mine hadn’t ever had them (they’ve had wings, just not Buffalo style).  I don’t get out as often as pre-kids and wings are not something I make at home, but after reading a recipe for chicken cakes I got the idea for chicken burgers— and in particular Buffalo burgers.  We had good friends coming over for dinner the perfect opportunity for creating my idea.  I knew that the younger kids, especially my spice-sensitive middle son wouldn’t do well with them so I’d make plain chicken burgers as well.   For sides I prepared roasted butternut squash, roasted potatoes and a garden salad. 

I like both dark and white meat of chicken and decided to use both to give it flavor and tenderness.  I used around a pound of each and had enough to feed 10 people.  By adding the sauce to the ground chicken before they’re cooked it gives that tangy-spicy taste in each bite.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • chicken breasts and/or tenders
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • blue cheese
  • ranch dressing

Add butter to hot sauce and microwave on 20 seconds.  Set aside. Mince the chicken in a food processor.  Add other ingredients, reserving a Tbsp or so of hot sauce mix, and pulse until well mixed.  (To make plain just add salt, pepper and olive oil).   Take scoops of chicken meat and form into patties.  I used a griddle to cook the burgers, but you can grill them too.  Cook until 165F.  Just before removing from heat spread some hot sauce mixture to increase heat as desired.

Serve with slice blue cheese and/or ranch dressing.  I used Cambozola Blue (cross between Camembert and Gorgonzola) which is nice and creamy.  The older boys had Buffalo burgers and preferred ranch dressing on them while the younger ones had plain chicken burgers with ranch, ketchup or just as is. (Garnish as desired).

For the butternut squash, just peel and chop into bite size pieces, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Transfer to cookie sheet and cook in preheated oven starting at 450F for 10 minutes and finishing at 350F for 25 minutes.  You can cook the potatoes at the same time on another rack.

Completing a well rounded and colorful meal— the garden salad had yellow peppers, carrots, cucumbers, celery and  romaine lettuce. 

We all loved our burgers.  The 8 year olds were daring enough to try the spicier version and they loved them!  As my wonderful friend noted the roasted vegetables helped transform what would normally be a summertime dinner into an autumn comfort meal.  It satisfied my craving but in a healthier method.

Chicken “Nuggets” with Homemade Bread Crumbs

Necessity is the mother of invention… I was watching a girl friend’s children and it was near dinner time.  I’ve had unfortunate experiences trying to feed one of them (and that child was probably traumatized as well) so I thought, how can I compromise— good food I know they will actually eat without gagging?  Chicken nuggets!!  Well, I don’t often have prepared ones on hand (it’s just not our thing) but I did have some gorgeous fresh Bell & Evans chicken breasts and thought, this should be easy enough.  Well, sometimes we have bread crumbs in the pantry, but they were used.  Boy am I glad.  I made the most delicious bread crumbs to coat the chicken, that not only did my kids and her kids gobble it up… I had enough to feed both parents and their friend when they came to pick up.  And everyone loved it- kids included!

In a Cuisinart I took yesterday’s baguette, a few end pieces of whole grain sandwich bread, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Penzy’s “Mural of Flavor” spice mix.  Mural of Flavor is a combo of Western Mediterranean spices and herbs, which is perfect for chicken.  (I often coat drum sticks in it and roast them for an easy meal), it can  be purchased online if you don’t have a store near you.  We have one in Norwalk near Stew’s.  If you can’t do either— a blend of dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, garlic salt, dried onion, lemon pepper and chives would produce a similar product.

I pounded the chicken breasts so they were about 1/4-1/2 inch thick, soaked them in milk and coated them with the rough breadcrumbs.  I cooked them in the oven, turning once, at 350 F until done but still moist, only 10-15 minutes (it depends on the thickness, you can always take one and slice it, if it’s no longer pink and solid its done).  I cut them into nugget size and served them with buttered noodles, spinach and broccoli. You can cut them smaller before you coat them for a more traditional nugget.

Tips for spinach: Baby Spinach only takes a few minutes to prepare— one of the easiest fresh veggies to serve!  In sauté pan add 2 teaspoons water and organic baby spinach.  Heat covered on high until wilted. (Steaming is fine too!)  Drain any excess water.  Keep off heat until ready to eat, then add pat of butter, pinch of sea salt and a couple of twists of black pepper.  Reheat, stirring in the added ingredients until coated and serve.  You can also sauté garlic in a little olive oil and/or butter then add spinch(Garlic powder for those really quick meals).