Once again this week, things have been more than a little chaotic. Thursday, in particular, was completely topsy-turvy. My little finnicky four-year old friend, Grace, was here, my husband would be eating dinner much later than us due to work commitments and my youngest daughter and I had to go visit with my mom who, while well on her way to recovery, is still in hospital. What, in the name of all that's high and mighty, could I make out of a few chicken breasts that were smirking at me from my fridge that would be acceptable to a picky 4 year old, reheat well for my husband, please my 11 year old daughter, and still tick all of my boxes of being easy, healthied-up, inexpensive and delicious? Undaunted, I thought, 'I'll show you, smarmy chicken breasts!'
Inspecting my cupboards and fridge a little closer, I saw fresh angel hair pasta, parmesan, provolone, panko bread crumbs, and a jar of tomato and basil pasta sauce. (Yes, I admit it...I used jarred sauce as opposed to making my own!). I decided on Chicken Parmesan. I usually make my own tomato sauce from scratch, but given the time restraints of the day, I eagerly took the short-cut that a jar of quality tomato sauce provided. (My recipe for Chicken Parmesan does also have a list of ingredients and the steps for preparing tomato sauce that freezes well for up to 6 months that I highly recommend).
Step 1: Flatten out my chicken breasts to approximately 1/4-1/2". While I suppose most pro-cooks would use a meat mallet, I don't even have one. Sometimes I use a bottle of wine, and sometimes I use a rolling pin. I used a rolling pin this time around. First I placed two breasts at a time into a large zipper lock baggie, sealed it, and then I took out my frustrations on those poor little breasts like they were the guy driving the big black pick-up truck who not only apparently OWNS the road but cut out in front of me suddenly amidst already insane traffic without so much as a wink or a nod!
I then got to do it ALL over again with two more breasts! (Perhaps you're starting to see why I say that cooking is my stress buster....particularly when I get to pound something with a blunt objective.) Yes, I know...perhaps I should talk to someone about my pent up aggressions, but people? Can we stay focused here please? Where was I? Oh, yes, after pounding my chicken breasts, I cut each breast in half. You don't have to do this, but I find a full chicken breast with pasta and sauce is just too much for me in one sitting...and hey, if you want more, you could always have seconds! Before preparing the Chicken Parmesan for my husband, daughter and I, I had to tweak things just a little for 4 year old Grace.
Grace is one of those kids, and really I think most kids are 'one of those kids', for whom 'how' you present the food makes ALL the difference in the world! So I took one of the chicken breast halves and cut it into chicken nugget size pieces. I then, under Grace's watchful eye and while explaining each ingredient and letting her smell the seasonings, proceeded to Step 2, which was coating the 'nuggets' and the remaining chicken breasts in the exact same manner: dusted with Robin Hood Nutri-Blend Flour with Omega-3 and Fiber seasoned very lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, dipped in a beaten egg and extra virgin olive oil mixture, coated with a mixture of panko dry bread crumbs seasoned with oregano, thyme, basil, garlic powder and grated parmesan cheese, and all of it pan fried in less than 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Grace didn't want her chicken nuggets on top of her 'spssghettie', not that she doesn't like 'spssghettie', she does...just not with her nuggets on top. Instead, she had some pasta with sauce, nuggets cut up to the side, and extra sauce to dip her nuggets in, which she devoured! (She even asked me if she could have it again 'next day', which to me were two tiny thumbs up!).
The sauce was simply a matter of opening the jar and putting pouring it into a saucepan to heat, so on with Step 3: finish off the dish. Once the chicken breasts had been browned, about 2-4 minutes on each side, I spooned enough sauce to cover the bottom of a large casserole dish, placed the chicken on the sauce, spooned another little bit of sauce over each breast and topped with sliced provolone cheese and a sprinkling of grated parmesan. I baked the chicken in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes. While the chicken was in the oven, I brought a large pot of salted water to boil, and added angel hair pasta nests, which only took about 7-9 minutes to cook. Draining each pasta nest, I placed one nest on each plate, spooned some sauce over the pasta, added the chicken breast, another little spoonful of sauce, another sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese, a little chopped fresh Italian parsely as garnish and 'Velato'! Dinner was served!
I put a plate aside for my husband to have later, and my daughter and I ate our supper and had a little time to spare before we went to the hospital to visit with my mom. It was a day that started at 6:35am for me, and it wasn't until 10pm that I could sit back and put my feet up. Luckily I had this quick and easy Chicken Parmesan to fuel my body and soul on this topsy-turvy Thursday! It was, without a doubt, easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!