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.
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.
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.
This Lightened Up 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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.