Monday, September 27, 2010

The Kids Cook Monday: Sweet Potato Nuggets

For today's The Kids Cook Monday post -- part of the Healthy Monday campaign -- I've got one of our favorite vegetables: sweet potatoes.

Cracking eggs is a tough skill to master, but so much fun
They're full of flavor and, as Anna wrote last week, packed with beta carotene (and fiber!). We love them roasted with other root vegetables, or sliced up as oven-baked fries.

Another fun way to eat them is in the form of croquettes. A fancy term like that makes my kids suspicious, so we call them potato nuggets. My boys wouldn't touch mashed potatoes -- but a crispy breaded coating makes all the difference. You can mix in almost anything your kids might like (a great way to use up leftovers) then bake or pan-fry them. They freeze well, too, making them a great homemade "fast food" for busy days.

Kids who don't mind getting their hands dirty will have fun making these. My 3-year-old picked chicken-and-apple sausage as his mix-in, and handled everything from cracking eggs to squishing nuggets into shape and coating them with bread crumbs.


Sweet Potato Nuggets

This is a very basic recipe you can adapt to suit your taste. Choose deep orange sweet potatoes for maximum nutrition -- and fun.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled (see note below)
1 teaspoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
optional add-ins: curry powder, chili powder, chopped meat, chopped chives or green onions, parmesan cheese
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I mix regular bread crumbs with panko)

Combine sweet potatoes, butter, salt and pepper, and any spices in a large bowl and mash with a fork or masher. Stir in any extras, such as chopped meat or herbs. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Put egg whites in a shallow bowl and stir briefly with a fork or small whisk. Put bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

To form nuggets, scoop up a tablespoon or so of the potato mixture and shape into a nugget or ball. Dip into egg white and then into bread crumbs.

To freeze: Arrange nuggets on a plate or pan and set in the freezer for a few hours. Store frozen nuggets in a sealed freezer bag; take them straight out of the bag to bake.

To bake in the oven (my preferred method): Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set nuggets on a parchment-lined baking sheet and spray lightly with olive oil or cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until nuggets are lightly browned and crispy.

To pan-fry: Lightly spray a non-stick pan with olive oil or cooking spray. Cook nuggets over medium heat for a few minutes on each side until lightly browned and crispy. (You can also fry them in oil.)

Note: To cook sweet potatoes, wash them well and prick them with a fork. Rub with oil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 60 minutes or until soft. Or set on a white paper towel in the microwave and cook on high 12 to 18 minutes for four potatoes. Or cut peeled potatoes in 1 1/2-inch chunks and cook in a pressure cooker for 5 minutes.

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