Archive | January, 2012

Popcorn Chicken Parmesan…yum!

4 Jan

Confession: I LOVE Italian food and I make a lot of pasta dishes. I have always said that any dish with pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese is a dish for me! I am a huge fan of chicken parmesan and have tried several ways to make it. In the past, my go to method of making it was to bread the chicken, then bake it. Unfortunately, I always ended up with chicken that was mushy at the bottom, no matter what breading method I tried. One day, I was watching Food Network and I saw Aaron McCargo, Jr. (aka Big Daddy) make a chicken parmesan where the chicken breast was fried, instead of baked, and it has become my go to recipe for chicken parm!

Big Daddy’s chicken parmesan, while incredibly delicious, is also incredibly intensive…pounding the chicken breast until it is thin, breading, frying…what a mess. I do not mind putting in the work the recipe requires on a Sunday night, but on a weeknight, it’s just not happening. So, what’s a busy mom to do? Improvise of course! I created ‘Popcorn Chicken Parmesan’ and it couldn’t be a simpler dish to make.

Popcorn Chicken Parmesan - www.KidsWorkDinner.com

Popcorn Chicken Parmesan

1 cup thin spaghetti

1 Jar spaghetti sauce

1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese

½ bag frozen popcorn chicken

Cook pasta according to package directions. Fry, or bake, popcorn chicken (I popped mine in the deep fryer) and cut each “popcorn” in half.  Heat the spaghetti sauce in small pan. In a large pot, combine the pasta, sauce, mozzarella, and popcorn chicken. Heat thoroughly, stirring frequently to ensure that the cheese melts. Serve with a vegetable and garlic bread.

The Verdict

This dish was rated five stars by everyone in the house! My daughter says that she likes this dish better than my normal chicken parmesan because she did not have to cut a large chicken breast. Lazy? Of course!

Side note: my husband and I both took the leftovers for lunch the following day and it was just as good the second time around.

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Organization is key, right?

3 Jan

I know, I know, organization is to the success of this cooking adventure, but why did I go shopping without a real plan? As my husband and I grabbed a quick lunch at Zaxby’s I scribbled some ideas down before we headed into Wal-Mart. Since it was Monday, I only needed to plan for four dinners, how hard could it be?

I got home, looked at what I bought versus what I needed for the recipe that I wanted to try, and quickly realized that I was going to have to wing it. I had ground beef and I had pasta, what to do? I went to the Kraft Food website and found a recipe for ‘One-Pan Italian Pasta’ and while it had promise,  I was going to have to tweak it…trying to force my kids to eat zucchini on day one was not going to go over well. So, I made a few changes and ended up with ‘Cheesy Beef Pasta’.

'Cheesy Beef Pasta' - A dish that I had to create based on what I had available.

The “recipe” is pretty simple.

1 lb. ground beef

1 1/2 cup bow tie pasta

1 tbsp Italian Dressing

1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used half “pizza blend” and half “fiesta blend”)

1 can chicken broth (I know it its a beef dish, but it all that I had available)

1 can cheddar cheese (It is in the soup aisle)

1 cup milk

I boiled the pasta using water and the chicken broth, while I browned the beef (season the beef to taste). I then combined the beef the pasta and the shredded cheese, and while it tasted okay, it was pretty dry. I then added a can of cheddar cheese and a cup of milk. I heated it all through, added a few more seasoning and it was done. It was served with sweet white corn.

The Verdict 

My family gave this dish an average of three (3) stars of of five. I have to say that this rating was weighted down because my uber picky daughter gave it a one star. Overall, not bad for the first day and each day will get progressively better.

More Home Cooking, Less Fast Food

3 Jan

I have fallen into a food rut and my kids are suffering because of it. With all of the demands on my time, I have gone from cooking five to six nights per week, to barely cooking three nights per week. And, when I d0 cook, I am just rotating our collection of “safe” dinners. Cooking holds no joy, it is just another chore on my never-ending chore list.

New year, new attitude!

One of my resolutions for 2012 is to cook more for my family. Not only do I want to cook more, I want to develop a love for cooking, to improve my techniques, and to try as many new recipes as I can. I do not profess to be a chef, so rarely will I create a recipe, but rather I will scour cookbooks, magazines, and the web for quick, easy, kid-friendly recipes that I can try to recreate at home and rate.

The plan!

To cook five nights per week, Sunday through Thursday. I figured that by Friday I deserve a break and Saturday is an unpredictable day, so why put pressure on myself. I have recruited the entire family to support me in this endeavor. With three kids, it is so difficult to find meals that they all like, so I had to explain to them what I am doing and why…we’ll see how long this support lasts when they start missing their weekly pizza fix!

The key to the success of this cooking adventure will be ORGANIZATION! I have to meal plan, shop from that plan, and do as much prep work on the weekends as possible. Much easier said than done.

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