I’ll admit, I like going out to eat as much as the next girl, but at this point in my life, there are several reasons to make it less than ideal. 

  1. Kids–three of them.
  2. Budget–ours fits in skinny jeans.
  3. Kids–did I mention I have three of them under the age of five? And one has special needs?
  4. Time–waiting 30 minutes for a table and then waiting another 30 minutes or more for food is a long time to wait when you’re hungry. With kids. Who are also hungry.

But it doesn’t mean that we never enjoy restaurant-worthy food. Having kids and being on a budget doesn’t mean resorting to a life of Hamburger Helper, hot dogs, and store-brand mac ‘n’ cheese. I strive to make the best, most delicious meals I can (almost) every day of the week. Here’s an example of a close-to-30-minute meal that seriously rivals Olive Garden fare: Skillet Chicken Parmesan

I’ll admit, the picture isn’t great (I so much wanted the photo to be spectacular–alas! I was trying to take it fast as everyone was waiting on me to eat), but it tasted great!

The recipe is so simple, passed along by people I can’t imagine to be anything but dear friends if I were to ever meet them. (I’m referring to the kind souls at America’s Test Kitchen who work countless hours and test thousands of recipes that fail so I can succeed with a recipe the first time in my own kitchen.) I mean, really! Anyone who comes up with a recipe this good for free can’t be anything but a good friend! (It makes me a little more forgiving of all the recipes that they don’t share with me for no cost. Perhaps some year I won’t have a skinny jeans budget and will be able to afford the online membership fee.) They’re also working on sharing more of their goodness with the world. They just launched their new website, America’s Test Kitchen Feed (or The Feed, as they call it), and it’s pretty cool. If you’ve visited their “regular” website, it’s pretty low-key. Stationery. Nice. Well, The Feed is like ATK with ADHD–it’s moving, shifting, up-to-the-minute kitchen help for those who live in the social media world. It’s… edgy. I like the blend of high-color photos and Cook’s Illustrated black-&-white drawings. Easy recipes for those with time-in-the-kitchen challenges can be found in “Quickies”. The photo of the chocolate cupcakes currently posted in “Recipe Bootcamp” is also tempting me every time I open the website. And who can go wrong with a kitchen snapshot titled “More strawberry prep? Hull, yes!”

Anyway, here’s the recipe. I make a big batch of pasta (whatever shape I feel like at the time), add a couple tablespoons of butter and half a teaspoon of garlic powder, and serve the chicken parmesan over that with a side salad. Simple. Quick. Leave-your-tip-on-the-table delicious.


Skillet Chicken Parmesan

  • 1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (To make fresh bread crumbs, grind 2 to 3 slices hearty white sandwich bread in the food processor.)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil (I often use vegetable oil or melted butter–it’s what I usually have on hand.)
  • 1-1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I also have used 1-1/2 tsp. dried basil when I don’t have access to fresh.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 lbs.), halved horizontally
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded provolone cheese (another confession: I’ll use all mozzarella when I can’t get provolone)
  1. Toast bread crumbs in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and half of basil. In separate bowl, combine remaining olive oil, 1/4 cup Parmesan, remaining basil, garlic, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place flour in dish. Season chicken with salt and pepper and coat with flour. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 4 cutlets and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes total (sometimes it takes longer; I cook until they’re no longer pink in center). Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining cutlets and vegetable oil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato mixture to empty skillet. Return cutlets to pan in even layer, pressing down to cover with sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella, provolone, and remaining Parmesan over chicken. Cover with lid and cook until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with bread crumb mixture and serve.

And for those of you who don’t have kids at home, you can easily halve this recipe–the “tricky” part is the big can of tomatoes. If you can’t find a small can of crushed tomatoes, you can either divide the large can of tomatoes into two and freeze half of it, or blend a 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes with a blender or food processor. Or you could make the whole recipe and invite some friends over. Maybe they’ll even bring the wine.



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