Easy Chicken Parmesan

There are so many good things about this recipe that I don’t know where to start.  But let me begin by saying, I learned how to make this from my neighbor Kathy Bratt in Tahoe.  She made it for a house full of people on her birthday with such ease I could not believe it.  She had learned it from her neighbor who was from Italy.  I decided to make it on Martin Luther King weekend after teaching skiing all day.  I had inadvertently invited 29 people to dinner after working all day!  Luckily, my friends are helpful and our cabin has a big great room so I had lots of help with the pounding and sautéing and the evening was a big success.

I’ve made this on weeknights and I must admit I adore the pounding of the chicken.  You can use a meat mallet or a rolling pin, but either way it’s fun to pound the chicken believe it or not. The kids also love to help with this.

Ingredients:
– 2 pounds of chicken breast
– 1 cup of flour
– 1 cup Parmesan cheese
– 2 egg whites
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 teaspoon pepper
– 1 jar of good quality red sauce (marinara)
– One large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
– Sprig of basil for garnish (optional)

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse chicken and pat it dry with a paper towel. Wrap one breast at a time in saran wrap and pound until thin, but not torn. Separate egg white from yolk and put into a shallow bowl.  In a separate bowl add flour, cheese, salt, and pepper.  Dredge each chicken chunk in the egg white and then coat with the flour mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown each breast on both sides (about 2-4 minutes per side). Let drain on a paper towel as you brown each breast. The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked through because you will be baking it as well. Once each breast is browned place them in a baking dish and cover with the red sauces and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Grate fresh Parmesan on top and serve with the pasta noodles of your choice. Spaghetti, penni or rigatoni all work well.

Spring Rolls with Citrus Sauce

Don’t be afraid to serve this dish to kids.  I first encountered kids eating spring rolls at an after school daycare where I went to pick up my friend’s kids.  It was there that I saw kindergarteners making spring rolls with the help of third grade kids.  I was surprised and asked the instructor if they would really eat them and she said, “Of course, they love them!” and they are so healthy!

 

I swear I found it a little hard to believe that a dozen random kids would actually eat these, but a few weeks later I tried them with my own kids.  Lettuce, cilantro, and mint?  Shocking, but they loved it just as much as the kids in the after school program did.  And mango!  The kids loved the mango the most.  Who knew?

 

Spring rolls are easy to make and easy for small hands to handle, making them perfect party food for kids, and are super healthy.  Make sure to adjust the citrus dipping sauce to taste, it can run a little tart depending on the acidity of the limes and it really is the very best part of the dish. This recipe makes 5 rolls, or 20 cut pieces.  Double the batch if you have hungry kids because these go really fast.

 

Ingredients:

– 5 round 8½ inch diameter rice paper wrappers

– 4 oz cooked shredded chicken

– 5 to 7 leaves butter lettuce

– 1 ounce rice vermicelli noodles

– 2 scallions, white and green parts

– 1/2 mango, peeled, pit removed

– 1/2 cup of tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves

 

Preparation:

For the rolls, trim each scallion into two 5 inch lengths.  Slice lengthwise into very thin strips.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cover it.  Add the rice vermicelli, and cook it until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse the noodles under cold running water.  Fill a large bowl with hot water to hold the rice paper.  Then dampen a kitchen towel with water and spread it out on a clean flat surface.  Immerse 1 sheet of the rice paper into the hot water until softened and flexible, about 1 minute.  Transfer the softened rice paper to the dampened towel and smooth out.

 

On 1/3 of a softened rice paper sheet place:

– 2 leaves of lettuce

– 4 leaves of cilantro

– 4 leaves of mint

– 2 tablespoons of the chicken

– 2 pieces of mango strips, cut into ½ inch x 2 ½ inch strips

– 1/4 cup of vermicelli

 

Cover with:

– 4 strips of scallion (optional)

– 4 leaves of mint

– 4 leaves of cilantro

 

Roll the rice paper into a cylinder, stopping halfway.  Fold the left and right sides into the middle and finish rolling.  Place the rolled spring roll on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and cover.  Repeat the entire process to make 5 rolls. Trim off the ends with a knife and cut each roll into 4 pieces.  Serve with dipping sauce on the side.

 

Note: An adult should supervise the cutting if the kids are helping.

 

Citrus Dipping Sauce

 

Ingredients:

– 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

– 1 teaspoon Chinese dark sesame oil, from your Asian market

– 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice

– 1/3 cup of fresh lime juice

– 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

(white pepper for kids since they don’t like to see

black pepper in their food)

– Scallion

 

Preparation:

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange and lime juices, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper.  Add scallions and serve in individual ramekins.

 

Note: Adjust to taste.  I added a bit more lime juice and a little more soy sauce.

 

BBQ Chicken Pasta Salad

With my children involved in every imaginable sport and activity I am always asked to bring food.  Recently, I was asked to bring a pasta salad with a protein for a group of teens.  This stumped me as cheese was not considered a protein and it had to be cold.  After much thought and consideration, the BBQ Chicken Pasta Salad was born.   

 

The adorable wagon wheels and inclusion of corn created an immediate kid favorite.   Because of the chicken it can be served as a main course and is perfect for a picnic or any type of tailgating party.  

 

1 box or 16 ounce box of wagon wheel shaped pasta 

2 cups shredded BBQ chicken

1/2 cup frozen white corn

1/2 basket cherry tomatoes cut in half

1/2 bunch fresh spinach 

1/2 cup fresh grated cheddar cheese 

1/4 cup ranch salad dressing

Salt & fresh ground black pepper

 

Preparation:

 

Put pasta water on to boil and prepare as package directs.   Cut tomatoes in half and finely dice spinach.   Use a good size bowl so it will be easy to toss and coat each pasta piece.  I like to add my ingredients to the bottom of the bowl while the pasta is cooking so they can begin to incorporate.  Add chicken, corn, tomatoes, spinach and dressing and gently stir together.

 

Rinse pasta in a colander and allow to cool completely.  Add pasta to the ingredients in the bowl, then add the cheddar cheese, salt and black pepper to taste.   Gently toss together.

Avgolemeno Soup

Because everyone is dealing with colds this time of year, I wanted to post this soup recipe from my book, Read Food For Real People.  Hope everyone stays safe and well for the rest of the year.

Before the little rascals came into my life, I used to love this tiny Mediterranean restaurant in the Filmore in San Francisco called La Mediterranee or usually simply, “La Med “.  I would go there with anyone who would go with me, any day of the week.  Of course, when it finally dawned on me to take my kids there I found that the apple (luckily) doesn’t fall far from the tree, and they especially went insane over the lemon chicken soup called Avgolemeno, meaning lemon and egg.  This recipe is not quite as complicated as the one that they make (they puree the rice), but it is super easy and absolutely delicious. 

Serves 6

  1. 6 cups chicken stock
  2. 1/2 cup dry orzo pasta
  3. 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or torn into small pieces
  4. 3 eggs
  5. juice of 2 lemons
  6. salt and pepper to taste

 

 

Bring stock to a simmer in a heavy pan.  Add orzo and chicken pieces.  Simmer over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until orzo is al dente cooked, but not mushy.  Turn off heat and let cool 2-3 minutes.

While orzo is cooking, lightly beat together eggs and lemon juice in a medium bowl.  Once the orzo is cooked, warm the egg mixture by slowly adding 2 ladles of stock to the bowl, whisking continuously.  Slowly pour warmed egg mixture into the soup pot, stirring constantly until completely combined.  The soup will thicken further as it cools. Add salt and pepper to taste.