Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Probably the Best Chicken Cutlets

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Probably the Best Chicken Cutlets You'll Ever Have

I know. I know. I probably should have listed this as The. BEST. Chicken. Cutlets. EVER. Better than you will ever have in your whole life!

But you know, I don’t know, Your grandmother or your father or your aunt or your cousin could have amazing chicken cutlets and they SHOULD! I just know that this recipe is a conglomeration of watching my mother, experimenting in college (food wise people…food wise), and binging the Food Network.

My first memory of chicken cutlets is actually not a chicken cutlet memory at all, it's braciole. My mother every so often would make either braciole, or chicken, or dover sole...but honestly the egging breading technique that is seared in my brain is when she made baciole.

My mother would crack a couple of eggs into a bowl, mix with a fork and some milk.  She would dump some 4C Italian Style breadcrumbs onto a paper plate and set up a little station at the dinning room table.

It was a treat for her and she would get, like a pound of the meat, and sit at the dinning room table while watching some show on TV, and dunk the meat in the egg, then the bread crumbs, and put on a plate. She did all the dunking with a fork (the same fork she mixed the eggs with) and would continue until they were all done.  Then she would take the plate to the stove and fry them in a pan with some margarine (not butter but Fleishman's Margarine).

She did this same process with chicken cutlets and Dover sole. She would eat the braciole by herself and sometimes the Dover sole as well. It was her own personal treat, like her saltine and grape jelly snacks, and certain Hershey chocolates.

My first attempt at Chicken Cutlets was in college. I used Italian breadcrumbs and butter...and double breaded them. No flour. No egg. No salt, pepper, garlic.  Just melted butter and Italian breadcrumbs.  They were good but...I could do better.  I made these for several years and only after discovering the Food Network did I make changes (and only after watching many, many, MANY Food Network like shows).

My favorites were Good Eats and the best, BEST cooking competition show will forever and always be the ORIGINAL Iron Chef.  The one filmed in Japan with awesome subtitles and adorable overdubs, judges such as "fortune teller" and the chairman who bites into a yellow pepper. Everything else is a poor substitution. You have not SEEN a cooking show until you watch a chef pull a LIVE octopus out of a tank and disassemble it for eating in an hour!

But I digress.   After many years of butter and breadcrumbs, I finally swapped out the melted butter for eggs and added the flour to the sequence. Flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, cook. I did this for years, and it was good. Was a it great? Meh. It was good and my family liked it, but there was something better, just around the corner and that is what I'm going to share today!

My secret, is a combination of panko (thank you Iron Chef and Food Network), Italian style breadcrumbs, and corn meal.


I first started using corn meal after moving down to NC from NY. I had a weird pull towards it, like somehow because we now lived in the south we should eat more southern type foods (my youngest daughter LOVES grits from being in daycare). It was because of this move that I started making corn bread more regularly and with that came the purchase of corn meal (to make said corn bread).

It was by a happy accident that I started using corn meal in my breading. I needed something to bread some fish and didn't have any breadcrumbs, but I did have corn meal! I found a recipe on Pinterest that called for corn meal and made it for the team. They LOVED it! It had more crunch than typical breadcrumbs and slightly more flavor than panko.

I realized shortly after that that I could mix all three of them together to make the perfect crunchy, tasty bread for my chicken cutlets. The reason it works is the different sizes of the breading medium.  You see, corn meal is fine like flour, bread crumbs (Italian style at that) are slightly bigger and add extra flavor from the seasonings, and panko, are large and super crunchy when fried. 

This combo is the winning ticket. When mixed together and then applied to a chicken cutlet (or anything that needs to be breaded) it adds crunch from different sizes and it adds flavors from the different ingredients (the corn meal adds something subtle and the Italian style's in the name). It really is pretty good. Probably the best I've ever had, and my family (or so they tell me).

Probably the Best Chicken Cutlet Recipe
1.5 lbs chicken breasts, thinly cut
2 eggs
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko
1/2 cup corn meal
butter and olive oil

1. Set up a breading station. Use three shallow dishes in a row and a plate or platter to hold the finished cutlets.
2. Put flour in the first bowl, season with salt and pepper (and maybe some garlic powder) to taste, and mix around.
3. Crack the two eggs in the next bowl, add salt and pepper to taste along with the squeeze of lemon juice. Mix with a fork (Tip: I mix the eggs in a regular bowl and then pour into the shallow dish otherwise I make a mess).
4. Combine the three breading crumb things (bread crumbs, panko, corn meal) into the last dish and mix together.
5. Now we bread!  Coat each piece of chicken in flour (shake off excess), then egg, then breadcrumb mixture (I like to press the mix into the chicken, gently patting it then flipping it over to pat the other side), one at a time and place on the plate or platter at the end.
6. Continue flour, egg, breading, each piece until all are done.
7. Now cook the chicken.  This can be done via pan frying or baking (although I usually do a combo of the two, depending on how "thin" my chicken is cut and how many pieces of chicken I'm doing). Put some olive oil and butter in a skillet (I use cast iron, but have also done this in a non stick-so you do you), and heat over medium heat. When the butter is melty, add the chicken a couple of pieces at a time (don't crowd the pan).
8. Cook on one side until golden brown and crispy, flip to cook the other side until golden brown and crispy. Depending on size of cutlet and how many you're doing, you can place them on a platter when done, or on a sheet pan in a warming oven (200-350 degrees).


I hope those who try the recipe enjoy it.   I would love to hear some of your favorite uses to chicken cutlets or favorite dishes for chicken cutlets (or breaded anything!). I'm always looking to expand my recipe box and add to my weekly menu!

See you next Wednesday!


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The A,B, C's of Meal Planning

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The A, B, C’s of Meal Planning

I want to share my quick and easy guide, a start up if you will, for meal planning. Hubster and I plan meals for a week at a time and we've been doing this for, quite a while.  We've dabbled in planning for the whole month, and while it was really nice to NOT think about what I was making every week, I felt it got repetitive.  Soooo...we are back to once a week planning-WITH adjustments as needed.

My apologies, I shall digress for a moment, and share the story of how this came to be and then the guide and then fin! 

Picture it, Rockland 2007.  Hubster (who was BF at the time) and I had just moved in together and it was super nice. When you live with your best friend, it's pretty awesome. So here we were, living, loving, working, and eating our way through life.  

We both had 9-6ish jobs (I worked/work sales and he worked/works IT so schedules were...flexible). Coming home some nights was TORTURE if we didn't have dinner was an endless stream of, "what do you want for dinner?" "I don't know what do YOU want for dinner?" "I Don'T KNow WhAt Do yOU WaNt fOr dInNEr?" There's a meme for that:
The meme...about relationships...I'm sure there are more.

Anyway...this was us...every night. And the worst part, the WORST, was that we had to defrost meat in order to eat we would shop for meat and stuff on sale, buy a bunch and freeze it knowing we wanted to eat it later...but not knowing when later was. It was very much left up to our fanciful whims.  When we did, FINALLY, decide that we were going to have steak, we now we had to defrost it to cook bueno. 

We finally got fed up and started planning our meals. It started one Saturday during breakfast when I was thinking about dinner and putting together the grocery list. I'm the type to plan my next meal while still eating my first meal...I REALLY LIKE FOOD!  

So here I am, trying to put together a grocery list and we were trying to decide what to buy and we stumbled upon talking about what to eat and what we were in the mood for and what was on sale and that was the start of the meal planning.

Not a grandiose start to meal planning, but it did evolve, and now we’ve been doing this for over 10 years and I’ve recommended meal planning to countless friends, AND I’ve got some tips that I think will help you.

Tip One…or Tip A…About

Make it ABOUT you and your family.  

If this is your first-time meal planning, this is a great place to start. Poll your team about what is everyone’s favorite dish or dishes and if you are a family of 4 BOOM two dishes per family member-there is your week’s worth of dinner meals!  Add the items to your grocery list and decide which night you will make everything. 

Don't worry about repeating meals. The goal is to get your team to sit down and start the planning process...what better way to do that than by asking everyone what their favorite meal is and then cooking it!

My family likes to separate meats and starches during the week, so it doesn’t feel like we’re having the same meal every day. For example: if we have pasta and meat sauce on Sunday, we will have chicken and potatoes on Monday, so we can have steak and rice or pasta on Tuesday, or even Fish and rice on Tuesday.  Does that make sense?

If your family has more than one favorite meal or you can get 3 or 4 favorites out of them, this is where you start to build your arsenal of menu options and can plan 2 or even 3 weeks out. Designate a time each week where your team can come together and decide on the next weeks meals. Again, a time that works for you and your family (it is ABOUT you guys isn’t it?!).

Also note: Keep it about your family. If you have sports, or dance or evening activities where eating out or eating quickly is the norm, put that in there too! Sandwiches for the baseball game, fast food between dance classes, take out on the way home from an evening class, add it to the menu! The goal is to get the information in a place where your family knows what’s for dinner and what’s going on.

The dinner menu from the week my sister got married.

Future Note: If you want to be a little ambitious, start asking family members to participate in prepping and cooking or designate a family recipe night, where you pick something out of a cookbook or Pinterest to make for dinner. A new twist on a family favorite, a healthier version of your guilty pleasure, a new genre of cuisine your family wants to try. Adding this to the meal meeting ABOUT your family will help with the variety of dishes after you get the hang of meal planning.

Tip B…Bulk and Batch

Make items in bulk or batch cook/plan. 

Think about those potentially repeating items from Tip A.  One month a couple of years ago, we had hot dogs with macaroni and cheese 3 weeks in a row.  If you have a repeated item on your menu that a family member loves, make it in bulk (but maybe not hot dogs).  

When you're sitting down as a team and throwing out dinner ideas, start thinking about how you can bulk cook and batch. Say if you choose two chicken dishes this week…a sheet pan chicken dish, double up the recipe and use the roasted chicken later in the week for something else (tacos maybe?). Rice is another example…double it up and serve it twice in the same week (white rice for one dish and stir fry the rest for a different meal). 

Batch prepping vegetables is another tip for meal planning.  But I'm not talking about having a special designated time for veggie prep. Nope. I'm talking prep them when you’re prepping other ones for dinner tonight. For example:  "I'm using these peppers for Keilbasi Red Beans and Rice tonight, so I'm going to dice up some extra peppers for fahitas later in the week."

The London Broil we grilled on Saturday was the meat inside the Rockland Bakery Roll Sandwiches on Monday.

As you're planning your week, keep an eye on what vegetables, meats and starches are repeaters and try to leave a couple of extra minutes during some meals to double up the recipe for time saving later in the week.

Once you get the hang of batch and bulk cooking, you can start freezing things for future weeks. Make 2 lasagnas on a Sunday but freeze one and serve one.  Enjoy the taste of your Orange Ginger Chicken? Make one for dinner tonight but double the raw ingredient recipe and make it a “dump” dinner so you can freeze that in a gallon Ziploc all together then just defrost and cook when you need it.

By cooking in batches and bulk you’re saving your future family time. You can manage meals and plan them around events, the evening schedule, your daily schedule, whatever. I know that once a month…I have a long day…like leave the house at 7am…drive an hour and half, sit in a two hour meeting, drive another 2 hours to another 2 hour meeting, drive 30 minutes home, WHILE sitting on a 45 minute conference call….it’s long…and draining. Those days are great for my batch/bulk cooking when all I have to do is heat something (or to be completely fair, all the Hubster has to do is heat up something)!

Future Note: Once your family starts to get the planning and bulk cooking thing, you can extend meal planning to month long if you want to…and you can start utilizing more in depth Tip C.

Tip C…Couponing and Sales

Using your family’s favorite meals check for sales on meat and produce and pantry staples. 

I would suggest having the circular opened up in front of you during family planning sessions or get it on your phone. Then you can use those sales to drive your dishes and choices in the meal planning sessions. You can use this to buy more pantry staples when they go on sale or you have a great coupon, then you have a pantry full of rice or pasta that you can pull from. Double or triple up on certain meal staples when it goes on sale, and bulk/batch cook and prep it. 

For example: chicken thighs go on sale, every 4 to 6 weeks at my local Food Lion. When it does, I plan a chicken thigh meal, but I’ll buy enough for my family for 2 or 3 meals. I’ll make one meal that week, and separate the rest for next week and then the next week. So with one sale item, I’ll plan 3-4 weeks ahead, or at least 3 or 4 meal ideas ahead.

Don’t know what you want to do with that chicken thigh, no worries. Throw it in the freezer and think about it next week when you sit down with the family!

Utilizing sales and coupons allows you to save for your family. It could also drive some creativity for your family meals. See something you want to try…oh it’s on sale! Let’s try it fam!



I did say this was The A, B, C’s of Meal Planning didn’t I…so the last suggestion to help make it easy and get your family started…is The…the…theme…THEMES!  

If you don’t know what to cook or when to cook it, theme certain nights to help your family get creative:

Meatless Mondays
Taco Tuesday
Pizza Friday are just a few options. 

My team does a pasta dinner on Sunday because we have Italian in our family history and we like the idea of it. So we always plan for that…it helps us think of ideas when we have our talk about the meal plan for the week. Pasta on Sunday, Salads on Monday (Soup when the weather gets cold), Pizza/Tacos on Friday, and something grilled or fried or baked on Saturday (something that takes longer than 25-35 minutes to get on the table).

So the quick TLDR: 

A-Make it ABOUT your family. Pick family faves to start. 

B-Think about BULK and BATCH cooking, schedule to eat rice two times this week but only cook it once! 

C-Shop the COUPONS and sales to help determine what dishes you’ll make for the week. 

The-Get some THEME nights going so it’s just plugging in the recipe to that spot-Taco Tuesdays-hard shell or soft? Chicken or beef or fish or shrimp? Rice and beans or some kind of slaw? Pasta Sunday-Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Alfredo, Baked Ziti, Lasagna, Shrimp Scampi…you get the idea

I hope this helps you to start planning your meals WITH your family not just for your family. Also, please remember, if you miss a day or forget to plan one week. NO WORRIES! Pick it up tomorrow and you can skip the meal or shift everything a day or so. Again, remember the first suggestion is always make it ABOUT your family.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Today. My First.

So. This is my first blog post. I've been talking about doing this for a while and even joked with a friend of mine about just doing it. Saying things to her like, "oh's for my blog" or, "I'm going to write about it for my blog" or, "this recipe is going on the blog."

But...I never do it. I said I wanted to start and I think I have good ideas...but then...something always happens or comes up or...whatever. So, I'm finally starting.

I'm writing my first blog post and planning to publish my second.  Why this weird day you ask...July 17th...well because it's the Hubster's Birthday.  He is 40 today, and I'll be 40 at the end of the year. And we will be married 10 years this October and I just need to start. But what better day than the day my best friend was born.  So in honor of his birthday, and my love for him and our team, I'm going to share 3 things about marriage that...might be myths...might be half truths...but just things that didn't work for us and what we're doing instead.

One: The Family-not his family, not my family...our family. not refer to each other as "family." Even with the girls. We are not a family. We are a Team. And it's an important distinction. I grew up in a great family, and so did my husband but as I'm sure many of you know, there are things about family that some people don't like. I've had my share of ups and downs with siblings and parents and while I love everyone now....I didn't always like them. Family has this weird thing that like, you have to accept them because they are family. Even if they are crappy to you, most people would say, "you have to look the other way," or, "accept them for who they are,"

Just no. You don't.

We don't use the term family because that's not what I want my family to be. We. Are a Team. A Team is a group of individuals who are working together for a common goal. That's what we are. If you are not working for the good of the team, then what are you doing.  We are not family. We are a team.

Two: Don't go to bed angry.  Nope. We do this one. Sometimes we need to go to bed angry. We need to stop the conversation. Pause. Hit the hay and head to sleep.  Is it a good sleep? Not really. But there is usually clarity in the morning.'s ok if you try to go to bed angry. Try it one time. If it doesn't work for you then don't do it. It worked for us and that's what matters.

Three: A partnership of 50/50. It's not. It was never meant to be. Our marriage works because we are each attempting to give 100 to each other...and some days I can only give 10...and some days I give 110...because he can only give 10...and that's ok.  When we had a baby, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and his grandmother and father died within 5 months...and I lost my job...well...let's just that was a rough year for us (and one day I'll write about it). We each gave what we could and forgave the rest. Ours is not a partnership of 50/50 and I don't think any marriage should be that. It should be two people, trying their best, supporting each other, and being careful to "give some grace" to each other.

I'm sure I have more...but these are the ones I can focus on right now...I mean...I did have some ice cream really focused. :-)

But I did it. My first blog post. Is it great? Maybe. Is it done? You betcha. Please come back again to see what other things I post in the future. I'm going to start with once a week and move from there. See you next Wednesday!