Chicken Parmesan

chicken p 2I lived in New York for four years and never had chicken parmesan better than my own.  Chicken Parmesan is an Italian favorite, definitely one of my man’s favorites, and just seems to be a crowd pleaser.  This dish goes great with pasta, zoodles (zucchini noodles), vegetables, or a side salad.  I like to make extras and have it available to eat throughout the week, using the leftovers to make chicken parm sandwiches.

Personally, I prefer homemade breadcrumbs, but some people still prefer store bought seasoned or plain breadcrumbs.  If you decide to make your own breadcrumbs, it’s easy.  All you need is some day old bread or defrosted bread broken into bite-sized pieces.  Throw the pieces in a food processor or blender and blend until you have crumbs.  I season my breadcrumbs with some dried basil and dried oregano, but that’s also optional.  When using herbs, crush and rub the herbs between your hands, because this will release more flavor.chicken p 3

For the sauce, I admit, I buy this freshly made red sauce I love from the store because I’m a little particular about my sauce. Most bottled sauces, like Prego, are filled with sugar, so I recommend either buying fresh sauce or making it from scratch.

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts

-1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

-1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese + 3 tbsp for topping

-4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced

-Salt and pepper

-2 large eggs, well beaten

-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra if needed

-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, 1/4 inch thick slices

-3-4 cups marinara sauce of choice

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Wash chicken and pat dry.  Place chicken breasts in large plastic ziplock bag or between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper.  Pound chicken with a mallet or hammer chicken with your fists (my own solution to not owning a mallet) on a flat surface until chicken breasts are about 1/2 inch thick.

3. On a dinner plate, add the bread crumbs, 1/2 the Romano cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper.  In a shallow bowl large enough to fit the chicken breasts, add eggs and 1 tbsp water, then beat with a fork.

4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil.

5. Dip each chicken breast into the eggs and then into the breadcrumb mixture, coating each side. When the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pan and cook each side for about 3 minutes, or until lightly brown and not quite cooked.  Add any remaining breadcrumbs to the pan and fry, adding more olive oil as needed and keeping the bottom of the pan filled with 1/4 inch of oil.

6. In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, cover the bottom of the dish with a 1 inch layer of red sauce.  Remove chicken and fried breadcrumbs from the skillet and arrange in the baking dish.  Pour another layer of sauce over the top of the chicken.  Cook chicken uncovered in the oven for 10 minutes.

chicken p 5

Layer red sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Place cutlets and fried breadcrumbs in dish and layer more red sauce on top.

7. Remove chicken and top the chicken with the mozzarella and remaining Romano.  Place back in the oven uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, or until sauce bubbles and the mozzarella melts.

chicken p 1

Remove dish from oven after 10 minutes and cover with cheese. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.

chicken p 9

Nom nom, melted, cheesy goodness 🙂

Look to Your Farmacy

It’s true, the majority of my money goes toward food.  Delicious, organic, local food.  And you know what?  I’m totally ok with it. Understandably, not everyone wants to spend the money, because organic can be expensive.  Just remember, the more processed crap, toxins, and sugar we consume today, the more doctor visits and money spent on pharmaceutical drugs in the future.  That’s why I look at eating well as an long-term investment in my health, because food is medicine.Let your food be your medicine(1)

Currently, the average American eats too much and spends too little on food.  It can cost a lot to eat organic, but I have some tips on how to best spend your money when buying organic.  Organic food is more expensive because it’s a more time and labor-intensive form of farming. If you’re someone who doesn’t eat organic currently, start by switching at least one thing in your diet to organic, because baby steps are better that no steps. If you’re someone who currently doesn’t eat vegetables or fruits, then maybe starting with canned or frozen vegetables or fruit is the place for you to start.  You don’t need to eat organic all the time to reduce chemical exposure.  Starting a garden, if you have the space, is also a cost-effective way to eat right.

What does it mean to eat organic anyway?  Organic refers to the procedure in which foods are grown, raised, or produced based on government-defined standards.  Originally, all our food was “organic.”  There were no herbicides, pesticides, irradiation, or chemical fertilizers. Rather, all our food was naturally raised, unrefined, unprocessed, and whole. Processing food and chemical farming has only been around since World War II, and since then, our soil has been depleted of important minerals and nutrients that we need.
Because not all of us can or want to buy everything organic, I’ve supplied a list prioritizing which fruits and vegetables to buy organic.  Please refer to the list below for most and least contaminated foods, provided by The Environmental Working Group.image

12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables:

Apples

Celery

Cherry tomatoes

Cucumbers

Grapes

Hot peppers

Nectarines (Imported)

Peaches

Potatoes

Spinach

Strawberries

Sweet bell peppers

Kale / Collard Greens

Snap peas

15 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

Asparagus

Avocados

Cabbage

Cantaloupe

Sweet corn

Eggplant

Grapefruit

Kiwi

Mangos

Cauliflower

Onions

Papayas

Pineapples

Sweet peas (frozen)

Sweet potatoes

The two foods that I highly recommend buying organic are strawberries and chicken.  The U.S. uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides a year, and only .01% of those pesticides actually reach bugs.  Strawberries, even after washing, retain the most of amount of pesticides.  Pesticides cause issues like skin, eye, and lung irritation, hormone disruption, cancer, brain and nervous system toxicity, blood disorders, nerve disorders, birth defects, and reproduction effects.  If you have children, just remember that kids are four times more sensitive to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults (Source: US Environmental Protection Agency).

Vintage arsenic poison bottle on antique shelfThe reason I disapprove so strongly of commercial chicken is that commercial chickens contain arsenic, which is actually approved and regulated by the government.  Arsenic is known to cause cancer, as well as a number of other health issues.

Trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference in color and taste between organic and commercially-grown produce. Washington State University actually proved through lab taste tests that organic tastes better.  There are more reasons to shop organic though.  By purchasing organic foods, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and helping out local farmers. Our health starts not with food but with our soil and water. Organic farming respects our ecosystem, while conventional farming leaks pesticides into our soil and our water, which in turn makes people sick. Additionally, organic farms are often smaller and independently owned and operated, so it’s great to help out the little guys.  Buying organic saves energy too, since more energy is used to produce synthetic fertilizers for commercially-grown crops.

organic_food

If you’re interested in going organic, but don’t know how or where to start, find your nearest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) so your can get your food straight from your local farmer.  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Drop me a line.