Lightened Up Chicken Parmesan Skillet + More with Antonia Lofaso

Chicken Parmesan Skillet 12

When I was first contacted and asked if I was interested in interviewing Antonia, my first reaction was to turn it down. I thought there was no way I could do it. I’m an introvert. I don’t even like calling to order pizza and now I have to talk to this incredibly talented, famous chef? That’s just cray (do the kids say that anymore?). But then I thought about it and knew it would be ridiculous and stupid to turn it down. I knew I had  to do it. Even though just thinking about it make my heart race and mouth dry out. I mean, what a great opportunity for me to learn from someone who knows the ins and outs of the restaurant business, is classically trained and does it all while being a single mother. I learned to take a little risk even if it scared me. And best of all for you guys, I learned some great tips that I will use in my everyday life and share with all my favorite people on the internets.

Chicken Parmesan Skillet 8
Now that Noah is in school (and eats lunch at 10:50), after school snacks are an integral part of our day so I asked Antonia about what she feeds her daughter to hold her over until dinner time. First, a little advice from an experienced mom was to have the snack ready and on the table when they get home because kids are ravenous. She also suggested high protein snacks that will fill them up but not spoil their appetite such as fresh tuna salad, hummus or avocado. Another idea is a small piece of her Tropical Ice Cream Sandwich as a sweet treat is better for digestion right after school rather than after dinner.
Chicken Parmesan Skillet 6

We also had a chance to talk about some strategies for getting dinner on the table on those busy weeknights and she had some great advice. Organization and planning are huge life savers for Antonia during the week. Make sure you have your fridge and pantry stocked and organized and have your meals planned out for the week. Get up a half hour earlier and get as much prepped for dinner as possible. This is something I’ve gotten into the habit of doing recently and it has made an incredible difference in our nightly routine. Trying to get dinner cooked while keeping track of my kids has gotten pretty tricky, especially since we have some sharing issues going on right now.

Chicken Parmesan Skillet 1
This Chicken Parmesan Skillet has a lot of make ahead options to help cut down on cooking time during the witching hour when the kids are cranky, hungry and need your attention. It can be made completely ahead of time, in 30 minutes, or you can complete a couple steps such as cooking the chicken and shredding the cheese then complete the rest right before dinner and bake.
Chicken Parmesan Skillet 10

To lighten up the classic parmesan, I used whole wheat penne and sautéed the chicken rather than breading it. But I knew I would miss the crunch of the breadcrumb on the chicken so I sprinkled the top with just a bit of breadcrumbs to trick my taste buds. Totally did the trick while still keeping it lighter. This is simple, relatively quick and family pleasing. Chicken Parmesan Skillet 11
Lightened Up Chicken Parmesan Skillet

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite size chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
13.25 oz. whole wheat penne
1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 1/4 cups part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. dried basil, for topping
1/2 tsp. dried parsley, for topping

1.Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and chicken. Sprinkle with basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper then saute until golden brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil and cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions. Add pasta to the skillet with the chicken. Stir in spaghetti sauce then top with cheeses, breadcrumbs, basil and parsley.

3. If you are eating right away, place under the broiler until the cheesy is melted and slightly golden. If you are eating later, cover with foil and place in refrigerator. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes uncovered.


Penne Gorgonzola

Penne Gorgonzola
This past weekend, we took Noah to see his first movie in the theater. We saw Frozen and it was the cutest animated movie we have seen in a really long time (besides Despicable Me, I love those dang minions). It might seem silly but I found myself tearing up during the movie, watching him snuggle daddy and stick his hand in the giant tub of popcorn. It was a special little date for the three of us and I really enjoyed it. He is growing up way too fast and I don’t like it. Not one bit. Mmmkay?
Penne Gorgonzola
I don’t have a good transition to the recipe so I apologize for that but I just had to share about our movie date.

Whenever we go out to an Italian restaurant, if Penne Gorgonzola is on the menu I almost always order it. I’m a sucker for a creamy, cheese drenched pasta and it was never something I thought about making myself. Well, until now.
Penne Gorgonzola
I reduced the amount of gorgonzola because I only had a 5 ounce container but it ended up being a good thing. I think any more would have been too strong for us…it was the perfect amount of strong, stinky cheese for this household.
Penne Gorgonzola
This recipe is simple and can be made in less than 30 minutes but is still fancy enough to serve to company. Or you husband and three year old. Then said three year old will find the big jar of sprinkles when you have your back turned and add a nice helping to his plate. Then luckily you will turn around before he gets to the rest of the plates. I always thought sprinkles made everything better but penne gorgonzola…not so much.
Penne Gorgonzola
I hope you try this recipe out soon. Sprinkles optional.

Penne Gorgonzola
recipe from Taste of Home

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken broth
5 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown chicken in oil on all sides. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add wine, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan.

2. Add cream and broth; cook until sauce is slightly thickened and chicken is no longer pink. Stir in the Gorgonzola cheese, sage, salt and pepper; cook just until cheese is melted.

3. Drain pasta; toss with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley

Penne with Chicken Thighs

Penne with Chicken Thighs
A few weeks ago I received an email from a good friend telling me that Ree Drummond was coming to Omaha in November for a book signing and asking if I would be interested in going. My response: absolutely. I am so excited! I love her blog, Food Network show and cookbook. As soon as I found out about the signing, I jumped on Amazon and pre-ordered her new cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.
Penne with Chicken Thighs
Every one of her recipes I have tried has been a huge, delicious success. I love the ease of her recipes and her hilarious way of presenting them. This penne with chicken thighs was easy to throw together and really yummy. I usually like to make homemade spaghetti sauce but to make this recipe simple, jarred sauce is used but onion, garlic and fresh basil are added to make taste fresh and almost homemade.
Penne with Chicken Thighs
With the addition of Hannah to our family, this will certainly become a new favorite and go to for hectic nights (which I’m sure will be every night for the foreseeable future).
Penne with Chicken Thighs
Penne with Chicken Thighs
recipe from The Pioneer Woman

8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 whole large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jars (24 ounces each) marinara sauce
Fresh basil, to taste
Parmesan cheese
16 ounces penne or rigatoni

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear chicken thighs quickly on both sides until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from skillet.

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add marinara sauce and stir to heat. Place chicken thighs back into the skillet. Cover and put pan in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

4. During the last few minutes of cooking, boil the pasta according to package instructions. Spoon out pasta then top with 1 chicken thigh and marinara sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Quick Grilled Hunan Chicken

Quick Hunan Chicken
As I’m sure you already know, I am a big fan of Asian food. I made the menu for the next few weeks and about half of it ended up being Asian dishes…oops. But there is so much variety that it never seems like we are eating the same thing which is why I love it so much! So needless to say, there is going to be a lot of Asian food up in here for awhile. Yep, I just said that.
Quick Hunan Chicken
I am not a fan of hoisin sauce so I wasn’t sure how this chicken would go over but I was pleasantly surprised. The peanut butter, soy sauce and oils combined with the hoisin so that it wasn’t overwhelming but complimented it instead. It was a really great, quick weeknight meal. And it was even warm enough to grill it outside. Take that Minnesota!

Quick Grilled Hunan Chicken
recipe from

4 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon hot pepper oil
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast

1. Pound chicken breasts to 1/2″ thickness.
2. Mix together hoisin sauce, peanut butter, garlic, and oil; spread over both sides of chicken.
3. Grill or broil chicken 4-5 inches from heat source until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
4. Slice chicken diagonally across the breast and serve on a piece of iceberg lettuce.
5. If you desire, serve with ramen noodles and steamed snow peas, as fast and easy side dishes.

Stovetop Sausage Mac-N-Cheese

Stovetop Mac N Cheese
One of my very favorite foods is macaroni and cheese…I guess I never fully grew up. But seriously, what’s not to like about pasta covered in cheese? I’m normally a baked mac-n-cheese kind of girl but this creamy stovetop version definitely got me thinking. It’s so simple to throw together on a weeknight and it is lightened up with low fat ingredients which makes it even better (you can’t even tell)!

I love mac-n-cheese with broccoli so I usually steam some to stir into my bowl. Obviously, I like anything if it’s smothered in cheese.
Stovetop Mac N Cheese
Stovetop Sausage Mac-n-Cheese
recipe from Taste and Tell

4 ounces chicken sausage, chopped
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup (about 1 1/3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
5 cups hot cooked noodles (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta, use whole wheat to bump up the health factor)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage; sauté 4 minutes or until browned. Combine milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in cheeses, onion powder, and garlic salt; cook 3 minutes or until cheeses melt, stirring constantly. Stir in pasta. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Stovetop Mac N Cheese

Dilled Egg Salad

Egg Salad
For me, egg salad is one of those things I have to be in the mood to eat and when I am it totally hits the spot. Egg salad doesn’t really require a recipe so this is just a start and you can add or subtract ingredients depending on your personal preferences. That being said, this is my absolute favorite recipe for egg salad because of the addition of the dill.

This is a great quick and easy sandwich you can throw together for the kiddos school lunch or for a last minute dinner. Plus, all the ingredients are staples so it can be thrown together anytime!

Dilled Egg Salad
recipe from

8 eggs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I use the reduced-fat olive oil kind)
2 tablespoons prepared Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 red onion, minced (we don’t care for raw onion so I left this out)
salt and pepper to taste
Sliced wheat bread

1. Make the perfect hard boiled eggs.

2. In a large bowl, combine the egg, mayonnaise, mustard, dill, paprika, onion and salt and pepper. Mash well with a fork or wooden spoon.

3. Serve on bread as a sandwich or over crisp lettuce as a salad.

Maple Pecan Chicken

Maple Pecan Chicken
During our trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior, we bought some delicious, pure maple syrup from the guy who actually made it. We got to see the taps and system that he used to extract the syrup and cook it up. Since then, I have been on the hunt for ways to use it besides the typical pancakes or french toast.

When I found this chicken recipe, I thought it would be worth a try even though I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it all that much. Why you ask? Because this is yet another one of those dishes that I always swore I didn’t like….until I actually tried it. The combination of meat/poultry and nuts just sounded too weird to me but turns out it is quite good. The nuts, along with the panko, add a nice texture to the chicken. The maple flavor is noticable but not overpowering. I think next time I may switch out the mayonnaise for mustard to make it even healthier.
Maple Pecan Chicken
This is a wonderfully easy, no-fuss meal for fall that is ready in less than 30 minutes. Make sure to prepare extra because it is great for lunch the next day over a bed of mixed greens with a little honey mustard dressing drizzled over the top. Yum!

Maple Pecan Chicken
recipe from Betty Crocker

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil; spray with cooking spray. Between pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper, place each chicken breast smooth side down; gently pound with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/2-inch thick.

2. In shallow dish, mix together maple syrup and mayonnaise. In another shallow dish, mix together panko and pecans.  Dip chicken into syrup mixture, then into panko. Place on baking sheet. Spray top of chicken with cooking spray.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (165°F) and coating is golden brown.