Black Bean Veggie Nuggets with Creamy Avocado Sauce

Original Recipe HERE

Do not let the appearance of the nuggets deter you - I know what you're probably thinking.

I picked this recipe because *N* loves black beans - I think she could polish off an entire can in one sitting.  My daughter has the appetite of a 14-year old boy most days.  It was somewhat labor-intensive, but a lot of the work could've been done ahead of time, including making the avocado sauce.

A word to the wise: chop up the avocado into pretty small pieces.  I left it in big chunks, and the Magic Bullet couldn't handle it.  I had to switch to a big blender, and it still didn't work until I added more yogurt.  I considered adding garlic salt or other seasoning to the avocado sauce, but I'm glad I didn't.  It had decent flavor but wasn't overpowering.

*N* ate several of these for dinner and asked for more, but I insisted she eat her chicken and creamed spinach before she had yet another helping.  Still, she managed to eat a giant portion of beans after all, per usual.

2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
5 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup grated raw, peeled sweet potato [about 2/3 of an average-sized potato]
1/2 cup panko
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (optional) [I did not use]
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Safflower or canola oil
1 ripe Hass avocado
1/2 cup plain yogurt [I used Dannon Fat-Free]
Juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Pinch of sugar

1) Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.
2) In a small bowl, combine egg, chili powder, salt, hot sauce and pepper; beat lightly and set aside.
3) Place black beans in a large mixing bowl and coarsely mash with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Add the scallions, sweet potato, panko and egg mixture; mix well.
4) Take heaping tablespoons of black bean mixture and roll each lightly between your hands to "pack" the mixture together.  Place on prepared baking sheet and flatten into patties [yielded 24 nuggets]. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
5) Combine flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish; set aside.
6) Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy cast iron or nonstick saute pan over medium heat.
7) Dredge patties lightly with the cornmeal mixture and place in pan (be sure to leave enough space to turn them.) Cook until patties are brown and crisp on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn and cook until other side is brown and patties are heated through, 3 minutes more.
8) Remove cooked nuggets to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining patties, adding more oil to pan as necessary.
9) To make the avocado sauce, place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. If mixture will not blend, add more yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, until smooth and creamy [I used 2 tablespoons in addition to the 1/2 cup].

Notes: Next time I'll add some garlic salt to the bean mixture to give it a little more spice.  Some finely grated cheese might be nice as well.  Since the avocado sauce was pretty thick (perhaps I didn't thin it enough?), I spread it on top of a few nuggets and we ate them that way instead of dipping.  Next time I'll substitute low-fat sour cream for the yogurt and throw in a scoop of salsa - we had so much left over, it would be nice to use it as a guacamole.  Finally, I was dismayed at how much oil I used, but the pan kept "drying out."  I'll brainstorm ways to make that step healthier - different oil?  Baking?  Broiling?

Kid Participation:
* Whisk egg and spice mixture.
* Mash beans and stir mixture together (use a very large bowl to contain the bits and pieces that will try to escape due to enthusiastic stirring).
* Combine flower and cornmeal.
* Push buttons on blender (if you don't mind authorizing the use of kitchen appliances).

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