Sunday, March 13, 2011

Refined Recipes: Oats, Chicken Nuggets

I made the oatmeal pancakes again this morning, testing out the stove-top batter-heating method. When my husband and our visiting friend wake up, I'll get to surprise them with pancakes - and I'll get to see how the batter holds up to being refrigerated. (Supposedly they get better when the batter has time to sit.)

Yesterday I was at home with a sick child, so I tested two kid-friendly recipes further: the oatmeal cookies, and chicken nuggets. The oatmeal cookie recipe, originally from a container of oats, is fantastic, as usual. However, I was reminded that it makes a crazy amount of cookies, so I have cut the recipe in half.

I froze most of the nuggets after cooking, so as to have a stash of quick toddler food for the first weeks when the new baby arrives. Chris and our visitor then reheated some under the broiler for a midnight snack, and proclaimed them to be yummy.

Also, I used ground turkey thighs this time, and a mix of potato and parsnip. They made nicely moist "chicken" nuggets. Gabe liked them.

These recipes are pretty darn final now. Would anyone like to test them for me?

Oatmeal Pancakes
(quick meal, or make in advance and freeze)

Makes about 12 small but filling pancakes. In order for this recipe to cook properly on the griddle, the batter needs to be heated. This makes the oats absorb water and get soft.

1 cup rolled or quick oats
1 ½ cup milk or water (or some of each)
½ cup whole wheat or white flour
½ tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
(optional) 2 tbsp melted butter or bacon grease
(optional) ½ tsp pumpkin pie spices
(optional) 1 tbsp brown or white sugar or honey
(optional) frozen or fresh berries, chopped dried fruit, chopped nuts

Preheat a griddle or large skillet at a medium-high heat. While this heats, combine the oats and milk or water in a pan on the stove over low heat. Beat in the egg, and then stir in the remaining ingredients (except for fresh fruit), and continue to stir and heat the batter until it is warm, and looks like a pot of oatmeal.

Alternatively, the batter can be heated in the microwave in a microwave-proof mixing bowl.

If you are using a skillet with a non-stick surface, you may want to add the optional butter or grease. This will prevent the pancakes from sticking to the cooking surface.

You can tell that the griddle or pan is the right temperature for cooking pancakes by flicking a few drops of water on the surface. When the drops skitter around, the skillet is the right temperature. If the drops immediately become steam, the skillet is too hot. If the drops don’t move around, the skillet isn’t hot enough.

When the skillet is the correct temperature, spoon the batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes for about four minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. If you want to add optional berries, fruit, or nuts, sprinkle those on top of the pancakes now while they cook. Push them down into the pancakes with your fingers if necessary. Then flip the pancakes, and cook for an additional four minutes or so, until cooked through.

Serve with maple syrup, butter, honey, or jelly.

If making large quantities of pancakes, or cooking in many batches, you can keep all of the pancakes warm by stacking the finished pancakes on a plate in the oven, with the oven on its lowest setting.

Pancakes can also be frozen, and reheated later in a toaster, in the microwave, or under the broiler.

Oatmeal Cookies (or Oatmeal Bars)
(quick treat, or make in advance)

This recipe makes about 25 cookies. Cookies can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for several weeks, and even longer in the refrigerator or freezer. When you make your own cookies, you know exactly what is in them, and you can tinker with them to make them a little more healthful, if you desire, by adding such things as dried fruits or nuts.

1 stick of butter
3/4 cup brown (or white) sugar
1 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups oats (rolled or quick)
(optional) 1 cup raisins, other chopped dried fruit, or chopped nuts
(optional)1 tsp vanilla
(optional) ½ tsp cinnamon or other pumpkin pie spices
¼ tsp salt

Let the butter and eggs come to room temperature. (If you are in a hurry, put the wrapped sticks of butter under your clothes, against your skin for a few minutes!) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the butter is soft (but not melted) put it in a mixing bowl along with the sugar. Use a fork to “cream” the butter. This means that you smash the butter through the tines of the fork, mixing it with the sugar as you go. Do this until the butter and the sugar are combined.

“Creaming the butter” is the most difficult step in making many baked goods. It can be done with an electric mixer, if you have one. The reason that the butter can’t be too soft in cookie recipes is because melted butter will cause the cookies to be too flat and too crispy.

To the creamed butter, add the eggs and vanilla, stirring until the eggs are beaten and thoroughly mixed in. Then add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, mixing well. Next, add the oats. The mixture will be very dry, and you may have to mash it with your hands to work in all of the oats. Lastly, add the optional dried fruit or nuts by pressing them into the dough with our hands.

Spoon out rounded tablespoons full of this mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet. As they bake, these little balls will melt and expand into the size and shape of cookies, so leave enough room for them to grow!

Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes. You will want to remove them from the oven when they still seem undercooked, because they will continue to firm up after being removed from the oven. As soon as you can use a spatula to remove them from the baking sheet without breaking them, move the cookies to a plate so that they can cool.

This mixture can also be made into bars. Simply pour the cookie dough into an ungreased 13 by 9 inch baking pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Chicken Nuggets (make in advance)

This recipe can be used to replace fast-food chicken nuggets for children. If you make your own chicken nuggets, you can control what sort of filler goes into them, and you can hide vegetables in them. These chicken nuggets have the additional benefit of being baked instead of fried.

These nuggets freeze and reheat well, so you can make lots of chicken nuggets and then have them on hand as a quick frozen meal for kids.

1 pound ground chicken (or turkey or pork)
1 ½ cup grated or finely chopped white vegetable, such as potato, parsnip, or cauliflower.
(optional) 1/2 cup white cheese, such as cheddar or parmesan
1 small onion, grated, or 1 tbsp dried onion
½ cup dry bread crumbs or oats
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 egg
(optional) ½ teaspoon each of garlic powder and paprika

Grate the vegetables finely (using the smaller holes on the grater), and squeeze out as much moisture as possible, if using wet vegetables like potato or onion. (To squeeze water from grated vegetable, squeeze a handful at a time over a bowl or the sink.)

Mix together all of the ingredients except for the meat and egg, using your hands to break apart clumps of grated vegetable. Then add the meat and egg, and finish mixing. Roll into 1½ inch balls - but leave them a bit misshapen for that “nugget“ look. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet or casserole dish with space between the nuggets, and bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes. Serve with ketchup or mustard.

Chicken nuggets freeze very well, and can be reheated in the microwave or under the broiler.


  1. More recipes to try! I love oatmeal cookies so this should be a good one to try and I have old fashioned oat meal in the morning, especially during the winter months.

    I wonder how the old fashioned oats would cook instead of the quick oats?

  2. Old fashioned rolled oats should work fine, too. :) Enjoy!