Lightened Up Chicken Parmesan Skillet + More with Antonia Lofaso

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When I was first contacted and asked if I was interested in interviewing Antonia, my first reaction was to turn it down. I thought there was no way I could do it. I’m an introvert. I don’t even like calling to order pizza and now I have to talk to this incredibly talented, famous chef? That’s just cray (do the kids say that anymore?). But then I thought about it and knew it would be ridiculous and stupid to turn it down. I knew I had  to do it. Even though just thinking about it make my heart race and mouth dry out. I mean, what a great opportunity for me to learn from someone who knows the ins and outs of the restaurant business, is classically trained and does it all while being a single mother. I learned to take a little risk even if it scared me. And best of all for you guys, I learned some great tips that I will use in my everyday life and share with all my favorite people on the internets.

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Now that Noah is in school (and eats lunch at 10:50), after school snacks are an integral part of our day so I asked Antonia about what she feeds her daughter to hold her over until dinner time. First, a little advice from an experienced mom was to have the snack ready and on the table when they get home because kids are ravenous. She also suggested high protein snacks that will fill them up but not spoil their appetite such as fresh tuna salad, hummus or avocado. Another idea is a small piece of her Tropical Ice Cream Sandwich as a sweet treat is better for digestion right after school rather than after dinner.
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We also had a chance to talk about some strategies for getting dinner on the table on those busy weeknights and she had some great advice. Organization and planning are huge life savers for Antonia during the week. Make sure you have your fridge and pantry stocked and organized and have your meals planned out for the week. Get up a half hour earlier and get as much prepped for dinner as possible. This is something I’ve gotten into the habit of doing recently and it has made an incredible difference in our nightly routine. Trying to get dinner cooked while keeping track of my kids has gotten pretty tricky, especially since we have some sharing issues going on right now.

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This Chicken Parmesan Skillet has a lot of make ahead options to help cut down on cooking time during the witching hour when the kids are cranky, hungry and need your attention. It can be made completely ahead of time, in 30 minutes, or you can complete a couple steps such as cooking the chicken and shredding the cheese then complete the rest right before dinner and bake.
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To lighten up the classic parmesan, I used whole wheat penne and sautéed the chicken rather than breading it. But I knew I would miss the crunch of the breadcrumb on the chicken so I sprinkled the top with just a bit of breadcrumbs to trick my taste buds. Totally did the trick while still keeping it lighter. This is simple, relatively quick and family pleasing. Chicken Parmesan Skillet 11
Lightened Up Chicken Parmesan Skillet

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite size chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
13.25 oz. whole wheat penne
1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 1/4 cups part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. dried basil, for topping
1/2 tsp. dried parsley, for topping

1.Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and chicken. Sprinkle with basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper then saute until golden brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil and cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions. Add pasta to the skillet with the chicken. Stir in spaghetti sauce then top with cheeses, breadcrumbs, basil and parsley.

3. If you are eating right away, place under the broiler until the cheesy is melted and slightly golden. If you are eating later, cover with foil and place in refrigerator. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes uncovered.

Chef Antonia Lofaso’s Pound Cake & Peaches Sundae + An Interview

This is a sponsored post but as always, all opinions are my own.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had an amazing opportunity to interview Chef Antonia Lofaso. French Culinary Institute graduate and Top Chef All Star, Antonia recently partnered with Breyers to create family friendly recipes that use the best ingredients to create life-long memories.
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I was incredibly nervous to talk with her but she made it so easy and had so much to share with me. We talked all things Breyers, weeknight meals, afterschool snacks, Top Chef and restaurant ownership. We talked about her partnership with Breyers first and she said a major reason she decided to work with them was because Breyers has committed to using milk and cream from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones and their vanilla will come from sustainably sourced and Rainforest Alliance Certified vanilla beans from Madagascar. The fact that Breyers cares and holds high standards for their customers is a major win for all of us. Pound Cake and Peaches Sundae 6
What stuck out most to me was her passion for food and the memories it has created throughout her life. She said her partnership with Breyers was a natural one since she grew up eating it. She told me her mom would set up sleepovers where they would lay in bed, watch movies and eat Breyers Natural Vanilla, pound cake and melon. Her dad would come home to everyone in bed asleep with remnants of their dessert strewn about. When her mom found out about the Breyers partnership, she jumped up and told Antonia she just had to do something with the pound cake sundae they used to make. That’s what I love about food, it brings us together, creates forever memories and brings us back to childhood.
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All of the recipes Antonia created for Breyers evoke memories whether it’s of her childhood or her own daughters. The Tropical Ice Cream Sandwich was created to pay homage to her daughter who is half Jamaican and the Toasted Almond and Vanilla Arancini is a play on her Italian roots.

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Although our conversation was over the phone, I could tell she just lit up when talking about the recipes she created and the memories they evoked. They all seemed to hold a special place in her heart but I felt this Pound Cake and Peaches Sundae was where it all started for her and her family with Breyers so it was only right to feature it alongside the interview.
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I expected to enjoy this sundae. I mean, it’s ice cream and cake and fruit. But I’m not a huge fan of peaches so I wasn’t sure it would be my favorite. Well, I truly loved this dessert. The maceration of the peaches brought out so much flavor and sweetness then combine it with the warm, heavy pound cake and cold creamy Natural Vanilla Breyers for an absolutely divine sweet treat.

We were rebels and had this before dinner last night to ensure I had good light to photograph it. I kind of wanted to say screw it to dinner and just have another serving of the sundae. I figured that wouldn’t be the best example to set for my children so I didn’t but I may have it for lunch tomorrow. YOLO.

I can’t wait to share some great tips, advice and ideas from Antonia with you all on Wednesday. And a little something I learned about myself through the process.

Pound Cake and Peaches Sundae
recipe from Antonia Lofaso

2 fresh peaches, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
4 (1/4-inch thick) pound cake slices
1 cup Breyers® Natural Vanilla Ice Cream

1. Mix peaches, lemon juice, sugar and basil in a small bowl. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with coconut oil spray then toast each side of the pound cake, about 1 minute each.

2. To make each sundae, place a slice of toasted pound cake on a plate, then top with a 1/4 cup scoop of Breyers® Natural Vanilla Ice Cream and cover generously with macerated peaches.

 
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Photo Friday

Have you ever heard of tanking? You basically float down the river in a stock tank. The lazy man’s canoeing. Perhaps a little red neck? Don’t hate. It’s apparently a Nebraska thing but I hadn’t heard of it until last year. On Sunday we officially became Nebraskans and went tanking down the Elkhorn River.
Tanking

There were lots of sand bars where we stopped to get out and run around. As you can see, the kids loved it. Hannah was getting a little ornery at one point on the tank and my mom told her she was going to throw her in and Hannah ran reached for her and said “yeah yes.” That’s how she says yes, little weirdo. These kids are little fishes.

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There was a lot of clay on the boundaries of the sand bars so the boys of course had to explore in it.
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We’re soaking up the last bits of summer here and hope you are too!

Maple Chipotle Baked Beans

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As much as I love summer, we’ve had a few tiny glimpses into fall weather lately and I’m so into it. I mean, sweaters and scarves and riding boots. But, can we keep summer food? I just love barbeques full of grilling and pasta salads and all things fresh. Baked beans always make me think of summer but with a change in the air, fall food is definitely on my mind. So I came up with a little compromise, summer baked beans but the maple and spice makes them seem perfect for fall.

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These beans are sweet, spicy and smoky and are made completely from scratch. I don’t know what it is about making beans from dry that makes it so much more satisfying to me. But if you don’t feel the same way, don’t have the time or just can’t remember to soak them overnight (hello me at times), you can absolutely make them with canned, rinsed beans instead. Just cut the cooking time in half so you don’t end up with a bowl of mush.
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The bacon running throughout is pretty spectacular too. Because bacon = better.

Maple Chipotle Baked Beans

1 lb. dry great northern beans, soaked overnight
4 cups chicken stock 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup barbeque sauce
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
3 Tbsp. chipotle in adobo sauce, finely minced
12 oz. thick cut maple bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes, until translucent.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked onion and garlic, chicken stock, ketchup, barbeque sauce, salt, pepper, tomato paste, brown sugar, maple syrup, chipotle in adobo and bacon.

3. Combine beans and sauce mixture in a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Turn slow cooker to high and cook another 2-3 hours, stirring often. If they get too thick, add a bit of water until desired texture is reached (I didn’t have to do this).

Graham Cracker Chicken Nuggets

Graham Cracker Chicken Nuggets, also known as “get my weirdo son to eat chicken mission.”
Graham Cracker Chicken 3 I’m reporting that the mission was a success. Any of you that know me well know this a complete feat. Noah has never liked meat of any sort except for deli meat. No chicken, burgers, pork, nothing. He does like seafood so there’s that at least. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid that doesn’t like chicken nuggets. I didn’t think they existed. I love chicken so much that I could eat it every day and give up all other meats. Although I would miss a good burger. And bacon. Actually, let’s not think about that. Last week I had a package of chicken and no ideas what to make with it and dinner was quickly approaching. I was scanning the pantry for ideas and thought I would just do simple chicken nuggets with breadcrumbs, but then I remember I used them all for this deliciousness. Womp womp. I figured I could find something else to coat it with instead, like cornflakes. The only cereal we had was raisin bran and fruity cherrios, no thanks. Then I saw the graham crackers that always grace our pantry. Noah would live on graham crackers spread with peanut butter if I let him. I figured this was my best chance to get him to eat the dang chicken for once. Graham Cracker Chicken 2
He saw it and immediately said yuck but the rule in our house is you have to try it. So he did and he said “hey these are actually pretty good, nom nom nom.” And then proceeded to eat 3. That’s a total success in my book and had us all dancing and cheering at the table (because crazy encouragement doesn’t hurt).

The graham crackers lend a definite sweetness to the chicken but it’s not overpowering. The outside gets crispy like a traditional chicken nuggets and they stay moist. They were perfection dipped in honey mustard. An added bonus is they take less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Winner winner chicken dinner. See what I did there?
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Graham Cracker Chicken Nuggets

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil

1.Heat a skillet over medium heat. Set up a breading station (I use pie plates for this). Place flour in one dish and season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs in another dish. Place graham cracker crumbs in the last dish, season with salt and pepper.

2. Coat chicken in flour, then dip in egg then roll in graham cracker crumbs. Place on a plate until all chicken in coated.

3. Put olive oil in pan and cook chicken in a single layer. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until golden and cooked through. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce, honey mustard or BBQ are especially delish.

Sunday Inspiration {Veggie Side Dishes}

Cucumber Tomato Salad 1

I love me some roasted green beans and this kicked up version looks amazing.

Fall is right around the corner. Get some butternut squash in your life.

I’m not a huge asparagus fan but cover it in feta and I’m totally on board.

These eggplant bites look like crispy perfection.

I’ve made this Mexican street corn several times. Totally yum.

Get your Chinese takeout fix with this healthy cauliflower fakeout.

We went to Rib Fest a couple weeks ago and had the best, slightly sweet coleslaw that I just haven’t be able to get out of my mind. This looks like a great version.

This magic broccoli is another tried and true recipe.

Healthy veggie side dish? No. Mouthwatering? Yes.

Drooling over these sweet potato wedges with bacon vinaigrette. Yep. BACON VINAIGRETTE.

Yet another recipe we love. Parmesan and black pepper zucchini is on point (do people still say that?).

*Tomato Cucumber Salad picture above.

Photo Friday

Kitchen Craziness
I posted this photo on my social media earlier this week. This is literally the size of my kitchen. With how much I cook, I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to this house. Well, the thought was to eventually blow out the wall and take over the formal dining room then simply have the eat in kitchen for meals. We’re not fancy so no need for a big fancy dining room just a place for us to sit down together every night. I wish I was here to tell you that was happening, hah. It’s not. Just showing you what I’m working with.

And isn’t the middle of the kitchen the perfect place to color at 5:15 in the evening? Not the kids table in the eat-in kitchen literally 5 feet away. But I shouldn’t complain because they were actually being nice to each other. And they just want to be with me. But seriously, if I got one more stink eye for stepping on the coloring book. Really children, because I’m the one in your way? Those two are something else but it’s my crazy train and I love it.