My husband and I love having our children and their families come for visit and we love visiting them in their homes. Family is important to us and even though none of us live near each other, we keep in touch daily.  When we are together, it is always great fun. So much to do – swimming in the pool, riding the waves at the beach or racing go-karts – brings out the hunger pangs and Grandma has a fix for that.  I am sharing some of my grandchildren’s favorite foods; kid-friendly meals that I have tried to make healthy without sacrificing flavor.

The dish that wins, hands down, as the number one favorite, is chicken fingers. They are healthy because they are baked with minimal fat instead of fried. To date, no one has noticed that they are not fried. The steps to prepare this dish are listed below:

Unfried Chicken Fingers

  • 1/2 pound chicken breast tenders (fingers), about 8
  • ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • olive oil cooking spray   

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Coat an 8”x12” glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place chicken fingers in a shallow dish and pour the egg substitute over them.  Rotate and coat all the fingers.

Chicken Fingers coated in egg substitute.


Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish and dredge fingers in crumbs.

Chicken Fingers coated in bread crumbs


Place in prepared baking dish in a single layer. Drizzle fingers with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Chicken Fingers drizzled with oil


Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.  Turn fingers over and bake 15 minutes more.

Baked Chicken Fingers


Serve this dish with a healthy ranch dip (recipe below) and apple slices for lunch.
Chicken fingers may be frozen and reheated in a hot oven.  I usually prepare a supply when I know the children are coming, so that they are handy when we need them.

Healthy Ranch Dip

  • ½ cup lowfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup lowfat buttermilk
  • ¼ cup lowfat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • dash of Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Whisk together all the ingredients and chill.

Chicken fingers also make a good dinner option with low-fat macaroni and cheese and a green vegetable.

Low-fat Macaroni and Cheese


Yield: Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni ( whole grain pasta is better)
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 3 oz. Velveeta Light Cheese cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz. reduced-fat Monterey Jack shredded cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Smart Balance light butter
  • 3 tablespoons Wondra all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon. black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Progresso Italian bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 13”× 9” baking dish with cooking spray.

Boil macaroni in salted water until tender but firm.
While pasta cooks, whisk together flour and ½ cup milk in small bowl.
Pour remaining 1½ cups milk into large saucepan and heat on low. Once milk is slightly warmed, turn heat to medium-low and add flour and milk mixture, stirring until thick.
Reduce heat slightly and add butter, cheeses and pepper.
Cook until smooth (about 5 minutes).
Drain macaroni, then combine with sauce mixture, stirring thoroughly.
Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs lightly and evenly on top and bake 25-30 minutes.

Another good dinner option: soup and calzone:

Easy Stracciatella Italian Soup

8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta (very small pasta)
10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach ( thawed and well-drained)
1 egg (beaten)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot bring chicken broth to a boil on high heat.
Stir in orzo; cook approximately 10 minutes until tender but slightly firm.
Stir in spinach, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook approx 5 minutes.
Add in beaten egg to soup stirring constantly until set and cooked.
Serve in kid- sized bowls.
Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Tomato and Mozzarella Calzone

  1. Store bought pizza dough or ½ of the recipe for homemade dough, (see post, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/04/its-friday-lets-have-pizza/)
  2. Flour, for dusting
  3. Homemade Tomato Sauce (see post for recipe, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  4. Sliced skim mozzarella cheese
  5. Salt, pepper and dried oregano

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  • Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, shape into balls, then flatten and roll out into 6 inch rounds on a lightly floured surface. Brush cold water around the edges.
  • Spread marinara sauce over the dough, spreading evenly and leaving a small border around the edge. Place slices of mozzarella on one side of each dough round and season with oregano and a little black pepper.
  • Enclose the filling by lifting over the other side of the dough. Press the edges firmly together to seal and transfer to a large baking sheet.
  • Cut a couple of tiny holes in the center of each calzone. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the calzone is pale-golden.  Serve with additional sauce.                                                                                                                                                                                               


Vanilla & Chocolate Rocks

Of course we can’t forget dessert. My grandchildren (and children) love these cookies. This recipe can be doubled and the cookies freeze well.

adapted from King Arthur
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Smart Balance® Omega-3 Butter Blend Stick
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 1  cup King Arthur unbleached all- purpose flour
  • ½ cup King Arthur whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
Melt the butter blend in a large microwave-safe bowl, add the sugar, and return to the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, till the mixture is hot to the touch.
Cool slightly, and beat in the vanilla, baking powder, salt, espresso powder, and egg substitute.
Let cool to lukewarm, then add the flours and chocolate chunks, stirring briefly, just until well combined.
Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. (I put 12 cookies on one baking sheet) Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, until they’re barely set.
Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan. Yield: 2 dozen cookies.
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