In the Junkyard Tales story “A Time for Play,” as dawn breaks, the Junkyard residents discover that their home is covered in balls of ice. Ben Thompson learns all about "hail" and that it can lead to a lot of fun. Everyone joins in the games except the steadfast watchdog Sergeant. Can they entice him to play?
Playing on a snow day is a classic joy of childhood. Like balls and dolls and jump ropes, it's the kind of thing that you can even imagine historical figures like George Washington did as a child.
And after he was tired of playing in the snow? Well, I'm sure that — just like your kids do— young Mr. Washington went straight inside to a big platter full of classic “kid food” like chicken nuggets and ketchup.
I'm kidding, kidding! While I still like to imagine that he would have enjoyed throwing a snowball when given the chance, chicken nuggets weren't really even invented until the 1950s — fully 150 years after George Washington's death. But despite their relatively modern appearance, there's just something about a chicken nugget that evokes the same classic, universal joy as a day playing in the snow.
This week's recipe — which would be a lovely lunch for either a snow day or a President's Day holiday from school — is an allergy-friendly take on chicken nuggets. Using quinoa instead of breadcrumbs on the outside of the nuggets makes them gluten-free so everyone can enjoy them.
Marinating the chicken in buttermilk for a few hours before you cook it will help make your chicken nuggets extra tender and moist, but if you're in a pinch for time you can skip this step. Likewise, if milk or egg allergies are a concern, feel free to skip either the buttermilk or the egg wash at the dipping stage. (Just not both.) The quinoa won't adhere to the nuggets quite as well, but the recipe will still work just fine.
Quinoa Chicken Nuggets
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper
⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
1 teaspoon garlic powder
A few hours before you want to eat, cut the chicken thighs into rough 2-inch chunks. Toss the chicken pieces into a small baking dish and pour over the buttermilk. Add a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to the dish, then use a large spoon to mix it all together. Cover the dish, and pop it into the fridge for 2-3 hours.
While the chicken is soaking, cook the quinoa according to the package directions.
When the chicken is ready, preheat your oven to 425°. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray or, if you prefer, line it with parchment. Toss the cooked quinoa in a large bowl with the garlic powder and another good pinch of salt and pepper.
Pull the chicken out of the fridge and set up all the elements — chicken, egg, quinoa, baking sheet, in that order — to form a dipping assembly line.
Working with one piece of chicken at a time, remove it from the buttermilk, give it a quick dip in the egg wash, dredge it through the quinoa, and carefully place it on the baking sheet. Once all the chicken is dipped, give them a quick spritz with cooking spray to help them brown properly.
Now, place the tray of chicken nuggets into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the largest nugget is cooked through.
To brown the nuggets just a bit more, pop them under your broiler for 2-3 minutes to finish them.
Serve these up with a side of classic ketchup or any other dipping sauce you like.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.