I've been trying, recently, to really focus on making good meals again. I've allowed myself to get discouraged because it seems like, at every meal, there is at least one child (and sometimes one adult) who chimes in with a "this is disgusting!" or "this is gross!" or "I'm not eating this!" I get all moody and annoyed and defensive when this happens. The next day, as I'm cooking something different for dinner, those "this is gross" chimes ring through my head and I dread sitting down at the table for another round of discouragement. Mmmmmm...discouragement. Butter makes it taste better.
I know. Part of the problem is that I need to develop a thicker skin. I need to remember it's my job to make the food and their jobs to decide to eat it or not. (For the record, I don't say "OK, let me make you something different" to the complainers.) I need to rebuild my cooking confidence. (For the record, I am NOT a bad cook. I cook a lot of good, usually-healthy, and well-prepared meals.) I need to deal with the fact that I just have picky eaters and not let it discourage me.
Tonight I made dinner. I'm surprised the world is still spinning on its access, gravity still works, the moon still makes the tides, and all is right with the world, because get this: every single person ate dinner tonight without complaining. In fact, everyone ate with compliments dribbling from the corners of their mouths.
Parmesan Chicken Nuggets (adjust for the size of your family)
3 pounds chicken tenders or breasts
1 T water
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp salt
1-ish tsp pepper (I don't measure, I just grind away)
1 batch homemade bread crumbs*, or two cups seasoned packaged crumbs
2 handfuls grated parmesan cheese
Rinse chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place on paper towels so chunks are dry as possible. Beat eggs with water. Combine flour, salt, and pepper. Pour bread crumbs* into a third dish; mix with parmesan cheese.
Bread the chicken: dredge in flour, then in egg, then in bread crumbs. I keep a big jelly roll pan that I only use for chicken, and just spread the breaded pieces on it as I go. (This part takes forever.) Heat a swirl of olive oil and a tablespoon-ish of butter (I didn't measure this part) in a skillet. (If you're cooking for more than about three people, try using two pans.) Cook chicken chunks on each side until cooked through and crispy. Serve with a variety of dips. (At our house tonight, there was blue cheese dressing, Caesar dressing, ketchup, honey, and fry sauce. Match the eater with the sauces for bonus points!)
*homemade bread crumbs. I am not a fan of packaged bread crumbs, mostly because I fail to get through a package before they go bad. Also because, unless we're eating at Subway, we don't eat white bread. So I always make my own (with wheat bread), and it's really easy! Plus it's a good way to use up the heels that no one will eat. (Did I mention my eaters are picky???)
3-6 pieces bread (for this recipe I used six pieces, four of which were heels, and had just exactly enough)
rosemary, garlic, oregano, basil, and pepper, or whatever spices you like
Toast the bread on one side so it's really, really toasted. Turn over and toast it again. You want it crispy but not burned. Let cool. Tear into chunks and drop them into your food processor or blender. (I use a blender as I don't own a food processor.) Sprinkle the seasonings across the bread. Process until crumbed.
The only drawback to tonight's everyone-loved-it main course? I think it took me five and a half hours to finish. Maybe six. Still...still worth it.