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.

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.

Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu + Wine Pairings

I have always loved chicken cordon bleu but it can be a lot of work to pound out, layer, roll, bread and cook. With two wild kids running around I just don’t have time for that. So instead, I decided to skip the stuffing and rolling for a more simplified approach that still had the same flavor profile.
Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu + Wine Pairings

It starts with a breaded chicken breast that is pan fried in a bit of olive oil then spread with Dijon mustard and topped with ham and aged Swiss cheese. It’s my new favorite way to eat chicken and I haven’t stopped dreaming about it since I made it on Thursday. Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu + Wine Pairings
And what makes a simple yet fancy dinner better? Wine. Recently, I was contacted by Wine Chateau with a fun opportunity to create a recipe to pair with three different bottles of wine. Gladly, they weren’t looking for a wine expert so it was a go for me. They have two retail stores in New Jersey and a website with an enormous selection of wine and spirits. I love that the website is broken down into sections by color and where the wine was made. When you make a selection, it gives you information about the region and flavors you will taste in the wine. I am nowhere near a wine expert so I always like having that information to help me make my selection.
Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu + Wine Pairings

I received three different bottles of Chardonnay, America’s most popular wine, to pair with my chicken dish, ranging from about $10 to $30 dollars. I fully expected to enjoy the Jordan the most since it was the priciest of the three but it was too overpowering for our taste.

Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu + Wine Pairings
We liked the Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay, the mid-range priced, the best with the chicken cordon bleu. It was bright and acidic but not overpowering and I thought it went well with the sharp Swiss cheese and mild chicken and ham.
Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu + Wine Pairings

The Hawk Crest Chardonnay was my least favorite of the three. It was a bit too acidic and strong for my taste. I’ve always preferred something sweeter and this had too much punch for me. I loved experimenting and trying different brands of the same type of wine with a dish to see how they played together. I feel like I learned more about the subtle flavors that came out and which we seemed to prefer. Having the ability to go to the website and read the descriptions of the wines I now feel more knowledgeable about what to look for when I’m pairing wine to a dish.

Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu + Wine Pairings
If you can, I would definitely recommend buying a few bottles of wine and trying this out for yourself. It turned out to be a great little date night at home, sitting at the table sharing a plate of chicken and three glasses of wine. Make sure to check out Wine Chateau for a large array of choices for your next dinner party. I think wine and cheese is next on our list!

Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 chicken cutlets
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, whisked
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
4 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
8 slices ham, thinly sliced
4 slices aged Swiss cheese

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, gather three shallow dishes (I use pie plates). Place flour in one shallow dish, egg in another and panko, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt and pepper in the last one.

2. Dredge the chicken cutlets in flour, then dip in egg and dredge in breadcrumb mixture.

3. Add olive oil to preheated skillet and carefully place chicken in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through.

4. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Spread each cutlet with 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard then layer with 2 pieces of ham and a slice of cheese. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and put under broiler until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

*Disclaimer: The wine was provided to me free of charge by Wine Chateau but as always, all opinions are my own.

Thai Grilled Chicken Legs

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We’ve been trying to budget around here, which is totally not fun. But after several issues with our current house which were not disclosed when we purchased it, we’re getting really fed up. The winter brings frozen pipes leading to our washer…not good when you have two very messy children and do laundry every day. And this spring we’ve discovered that whenever it rains heavily, water seeps into the basement bedroom. Have I mentioned that it’s rained almost every day for almost a month? It’s not been pretty.
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One of the ways we’re reducing our spending is through our grocery bill. But I refuse to buy junk food (aka cheap food) as a means of doing so. Instead, I plan our meals around the meat and produce on sale that week at my favorite grocery store. I’m not a fan of checking out the ads at several stores then making trips to all of them. I just don’t have the time or desire and I can always figure out something with what’s on sale at the store less than a mile from our house. Convenience is important people.
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I also like to stock up when certain things are on sale, such as boneless skinless chicken breasts. They were cheap this week so I may have bought 8 packages. I would eat chicken every day so we won’t have a problem going through that purchase. I also picked up some chicken leg quarters and grilled up these Thai Grilled Chicken Legs on one of the few days it was gloomy and rainy.
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The chicken gets a punch of flavor from a marinade of peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce and lime juice. The marinade then does double duty as a dipping sauce.
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A word to the wise, the peanut butter in the marinade makes the grill flame up and may cause some charring on the chicken if you don’t keep a close eye on it. Not that I would know…. I also recommend using a digital meat thermometer so you know when it’s been cooked through. I love this one as you can set the desired temperature and an alarm will go off when it has been reached. Fool proof.
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Thai Grilled Chicken Legs

6 chicken leg quarters
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 lime, juiced
pinch of salt

1. In a bowl, combine garlic, peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, lime juice and salt. Reserve half of the marinade and place in refrigerator. Add remaining marinade to a ziplock bag and add chicken. Make sure all the chicken is covered and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

2. Preheat grill to medium heat. Place chicken on grill and cook for 30-45 minutes. Baste and flip chicken every 15 minutes, until juices run clear and internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Serve with remaining sauce for dipping.

Recipe adapted from Scratching Canvas.
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Coconut Macadamia Nut Chicken Tenders

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In the dead of winter it is so easy to reach for those rich, hearty, unhealthy comfort foods but now that Spring has arrived, I’m trying to make some healthy swaps for those calorie-laden dishes but still feel full and satisfied. Because, you know, bathing suit season is quickly approaching.
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Enter the coconut macadamia nut chicken tender. I have said before that if I could choose my last meal, it would be fried chicken. Well, I would eat it everyday if I could get away with it. But that’s just not realistic so I decided to swap out the all-purpose flour for coconut flour along with some sweet, nutritious additions to create a tropical twist on my favorite food. Coconut flour is high in fiber and protein which makes it incredibly filling. Plus, it’s low in carbohydrates and gluten-free so you can pretty much satisfy any lifestyle with it. I love the slight sweetness it adds to any recipe without any sugar.
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The shredded, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts add a nice texture to the chicken tenders and boost the health benefits. I also love the tropical, summery flavors to help pull us out of this cold, dreary spring.
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These chicken fingers are browned in a little olive oil to brown and crisp the coating then transferred to the oven to cook through. This saves a lot of fat and calories over the traditional fried version.
Coconut Macadamia Nut Chicken Tenders 2
If you are looking for a sweet coconut flour recipe, make sure to check out these bad boys, also known as our new favorite breakfast.
Coconut Macadamia Nut Chicken Tenders 1
Coconut Macadamia Nut Chicken Tenders

1 lb. chicken tenderloins
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, toasted
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup coconut flour
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Nonstick coconut oil spray
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup yellow mustard

1. In a ziplock bag, marinate the chicken in the buttermilk for 4 hours, or up to overnight.

2. Place macadamia nuts in a blender or food processor and pulse until they resemble wet sand. Combine the ground nuts, coconut, coconut flour, salt, pepper and parika in a shallow pie plate. Remove chicken from buttermilk and allow excess buttermilk to drip off. Coat chicken in the coconut mixture then place on a plate. Continue until all the chicken has been coated.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place chicken in a single layer in the skillet and brown, 2 minute per side. You are not cooking the chicken through at this point, just getting some nice color on it. Generously spray a baking rack with coconut oil spray and place on a baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the skillet and place on the prepared baking rack. Bake chicken for 5-7 minutes or until cooked through. Whisk together the honey and mustard and serve on the side for dipping.

 

Creamy Cilantro Chicken

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Remember how I told you last week about the gorgeous weather we were having? Well, we got pummeled with snow this past weekend and ended up having a snow day Monday. And we have another storm heading our way any minute now. Wahhhh. Can’t it be Spring yet? I really shouldn’t complain because we’ve had a gorgeous winter so far but it’s just such a pain carting the kids around in the snow. I predict I will not be going anywhere unless absolutely necessary.
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While the weather was nice, we had this delicious creamy cilantro chicken straight from the grill. I always love Italian dressing as a marinade so when I saw this recipe I knew it was something we had to try. Italian dressing is mixed with lime juice and cilantro for a zesty chicken marinade. Some of it is reserved to mix with the sour cream for a delicious sauce to drizzle over the finished dish. It so tasty and a very easy weeknight dinner alongside some cilantro lime rice and black beans. And don’t worry if you’re having frigid weather like us, this would be equally delicious on a countertop grill or sautéed on the stovetop.
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Creamy Cilantro Chicken
recipe adapted from Mom’s Test Kitchen

1 1/4 pounds chicken tenderloins
1 cup Italian dressing
1 small lime, juiced
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
Cilantro Lime Rice
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed

1. Combine Italian dressing, lime juice and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Reserve 1/4 cup for use later. Place chicken in a ziplock bag and pour remaining marinade over the chicken. Seal and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to overnight.

2. Combine the sour cream, remaining 1/4 cup marinade and remaining cilantro together and refrigerate until ready for use.

3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat and cook chicken until cooked through and juices run clear. Serve chicken over cilantro lime rice and black beans, drizzled with the zesty sour cream sauce.
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Grilled Buffalo Chicken + My 500th Post

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500 posts? Say what? It’s hard to believe that I have been around for that long. To all my followers new and old, thank you! I love this little space of mine and truly hope that you all do too. I’ve learned so much, gained confidence and tried so many new techniques that I never would have without this blog. I love love love hearing from you, so keep the comments coming. What recipes have you tried? Which ones are your favorites?
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I thought I would celebrate by sharing one of my new favorite (and healthy) meals. You all know that I love grilling so I like to extend the season as long as possible. Seeing that it’s projected to be in the 90’s and low 100’s around here this week, I’m pretty sure grilling will be the only thing going on.
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Well, chicken wings are pretty much one of my favorite foods (as evidenced here, here and here) but they definitely aren’t the healthiest or cleanest food to eat so I don’t indulge in them often. But now I can and not have any guilt about it. I would normally use boneless, skinless breasts but this time I chose thighs to lend some extra flavor. Since we are cutting out so much fat by grilling the chicken, I figured it was ok to bring a little with the thighs. But, either would be great so choose what you prefer or have on hand. While the chicken is grilled, it is basted with a homemade buffalo sauce to enhance the traditional wing flavor.
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I served this alongside a delish dill cucumber slaw that was cool and creamy, balancing out the hot, spiciness of the chicken. It was pretty much perfection in every bite. I must put it on the menu again. Maybe for tomorrow.

Grilled Buffalo Chicken

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup hot pepper sauce, divided
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1. Place chicken thighs in a zip top bag and pour in 1/4 cup hot pepper sauce. Seal and marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours, or up to overnight.

2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine butter, remaining 1/2 cup hot pepper sauce and garlic powder in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Pour half into a small bowl and keep remaining sauce in pan over low heat.

3. Place chicken on grill and baste with bowl of sauce each time you flip. Grill until cooked through and juices run clear. Serve grilled chicken with reserved sauce for dipping.