Nova--eight months old, crawling, and curious--has recently experienced a whole array of new gustatory adventures. They include, in no particular order, tastings of grass clippings, shoe strings, cardboard, maple tree seeds, rug fuzz, chair legs, table legs, sofa legs, mud, and the cord to my laptop.
Fortunately, she also likes to eat actual food. Lately in fact, she demands it, which means the days of casually offering solids are over, and I'm now in charge of cooking for two small humans, one of whom has no teeth. I would be lost without recipes well-suited to a broad range of chewing abilities, like these cute and inviting Crispy Baked Chickpea Nuggets.
They feel and taste exactly how you want them to: toasty and golden on the outside, and moist and savory (without being overly creamy or beany) on the inside, laced with sharp cheddar cheese and pureed onions.
Each nugget contains about four grams of protein, so three of them supply the protein equivalent of a couple of eggs. Plus you get all the other good stuff that comes from legumes, like fiber, iron, B-vitamins, and meatless karma. We like them dipped into a little tin of organic ketchup, which Darwin will tell you is only for grownups and big kids.
For Nova, I nibble off the crispy outer layer of a nugget and let her mash up the soft interior with her gums. She opens her mouth and pokes her miniature tongue toward the food and seems to enjoy it at least as thoroughly as she enjoys her own feet.
How's that to recommend a recipe?
Crispy Baked Chickpea Nuggets
Makes about 22 nuggets
3 cups cooked chickpeas*
1.5 cups freshly-grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup whole grain breadcrumbs**
half a medium sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
3/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 400.
Line an aluminum (light-colored) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and puree until well-combined. Expect the consistency of hummus.
Use a large spoon to apply nugget-sized dollops onto the baking sheet. Space them closely, and don't worry about shaping them, particularly.
Bake 15 minutes, then flip the nuggets. The nuggets should have a golden brown crust on the undersides. Use the back of your spatula to smash them slightly.
Bake 15 minutes more, until the nuggets are firm and toasty on both sides. Cool five minutes, then serve.
*We cook our own chickpeas from scratch. If you're using canned chickpeas, try two cans, drained.
**We make our own breadcrumbs from the collected frozen heels of 100% whole sprouted grain bread.