Monday, June 27, 2011

Easy Chicken Parmigiana

You may think that making anything you have to cook twice would be complicated, and I can't blame you for that. I mean, just look up "Chicken parmigiana" on the interwebs; you'll immediately get 10 recipes that have 20 ingredients and take 90 minutes to make. Who has time for that?!

So here is my easy, quick and down-right delicious recipe for chicken parm. Rad Boyfriend called it the best chicken parm he'd ever eaten, including in fancy restaurants. Clearly he doesn't have an Italian grandmother, but I didn't mention that to him. Instead I said, "I know, isn't it really good?!" I'm so modest.

Step One: 
Beat the meat. You heard me. Procure 4-6 large chicken breasts, wash them, trim the fat, and put them in a plastic bag or under plastic wrap. Then beat the hell out of them with a mallet. (It's fun, trust me.) I suggest doing this atop a wooden cutting board as opposed to a plastic one. Then cut the cutlets down to a more manageable size. Thin chicken is the key to a flavorful dish, so don't skimp on the beating!

Step Two:
Get a small bowl and three large plates. (I prefer paper plates, as I hate doing dishes.) Coat the bottom of the first plate with a mixture of flour, salt and pepper. In the bowl, beat two eggs with a bit of water; this is called an egg wash. In the second paper plate, mix together some seasoned breadcrumbs, chopped fresh parsley, and a generous amount of finely grated Parmesan cheese. DO NOT SKIP THE PARMESAN! This is the secret ingredient. Remember the title of the dish we're making!

Step Three: 
Dip each chicken breast into the flour, then the egg wash, then the breadcrumb and Parmesan mixture. Set aside on the third plate.

Step Four: 
Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a large frying pan. Heat until hot, then throw in about a tablespoon of butter. Trust me, this makes the chicken golden and crispy. Place the chicken in the pan and throw some salt and pepper on top. Cook for 3-4 minutes and repeat on other side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Here's where I reveal a dirty little secret about my favorite salty seasoning. I do love me some Lawry's, but this here holds a special place in my heart:

My family has been cooking with Vegeta since I was born, despite the fact that (GASP!) it's chock full of MSG. Yup, you heard me: I eat MSG. And since I've been eating it since I was a wee lass, it's probably shaved several years off my life. (Extra points if you know what's going on here.)

Step Five: 
Moving on...

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Bring a big pot of water to boil for spaghetti. (Did I mention we're eating pasta with this meal? We're eating pasta.) 
  • Chop some fresh basil. 
  • Open a jar of tomato sauce. (Making your own is not that hard, but the goal here is quick and easy. My favorite jarred sauce is Trader Joe's Tomato Basil.) 
  • Either in a bowl or right in the jar, mix the fresh basil into the sauce. Trust me, basil makes the dish so much more flavorful.
Step Six:
Pour enough tomato sauce to coat the bottom of a glass baking dish, up to 1/2 inch of sauce. Leave enough sauce for pasta. Put one (and ONLY one) layer of chicken on top of the sauce. Cut big, thick slices of fresh mozzarella and lay them on top of the chicken.

Step Seven:
Put the dish in the oven on 350 for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and the sauce is bubbling. Remove and serve over spaghetti.

Suggestions for side dishes: garlic bread and salad.


Easy Chicken Parmigiana Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings 4
4-6 chicken breasts
2 eggs
2 tbsp. water
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for topping)
2 sprigs fresh parsley
6 leaves fresh basil
1 jar tomato sauce (extra if you like lots of sauce on your pasta)
4-6 slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying
1 tbsp butter
1 lb spaghetti (or less, depending on how much pasta you want)

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Wash the chicken breasts and trim the fat.
  3. Place 2 at a time in a plastic bag or under plastic wrap. Beat with kitchen mallet until thin, or each breast is about double in width/length. Cut to desired size.
  4. Place the flour in flat plate, mix with salt and pepper. Beat eggs and water until frothy in bowl. Mix seasoned breadcrumbs, fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese together in separate plate.
  5. Dip chicken breasts first in flour, then egg, then breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture. Set aside.
  6. Bring a large pot of water to boil for spaghetti.
  7. Coat frying pan with generous amount of olive oil and heat. Once hot, add butter. 
  8. Fry chicken 3-4 minutes on one side, sprinkle with salt and pepper before turning over. Repeat on other side. 
  9. Chop the basil. Either in a bowl or in the jar, mix the basil into the sauce. 
  10. Coat 11x17 (or smaller, whatever fits 6 large breasts) glass baking dish with 1/2 inch of tomato sauce. Leave extra sauce for pasta.
  11. Place chicken on sauce.
  12. Place one heaping slice of mozzarella cheese on each chicken breast. 
  13. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 or until cheese is melted and bubbly. 
  14. Cook spaghetti to desired consistency. 
  15. Remove chicken from oven and serve over spaghetti. Pour extra sauce and cheese on dish as desired. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The last birthday of my 20's and some TMI (WARNING! GIRL STUFF WITHIN!)

[Most of this post was written last week, before my birthday. I've since edited it.]

It was my birthday on Sunday--the big 2-9. The last one I'll ever have before turning thirty. And for once, I didn't have an had only a minor anxiety attack over getting a year older. In fact, I handled this birthday a lot better than I've handled almost every other birthday in my twenties.Go figure!

As I sat down to write this post, I tried to figure out why I was so much less stressed about this June 19th. Is it because I'm finally at a place in my life where I feel comfortable with myself? Is it because I have such a rad boyfriend and awesome friends and supportive family and spent my birthday at the fair where games were played, competitions were won, fried food was eaten and babies were held? Yes. Yes to all of that.(Baby Scent might be my favorite smell in the world, by the way.)

But also (and this is the TMI part, you've been warned!) I think it has something to do with the fact that I recently stopped taking a certain mediation. A medication that is supposed to prevent a thing called BABIES. No, I'm not with child, and no I'm not "trying." (Despite that thing I said about Baby Scent. Mmm babies...) I stopped taking anti-baby pills because they were making me crazy. Literally. The following is a first-hand account of how birth control has messed with my head so badly that the thought of being back on it scares the shit out of me.

Last year I started seeing an awesome doctor who discussed many different birth control options with me. I decided to try one called Seasonique, the one that's supposed to allow Mother Nature to come a callin' only 4 times per year, because hey... who likes periods EVERY month? But in order to effectuate that process, the pills release an incredibly high dose of hormones into your system--a level I apparently could not handle. They made me absolutely crazy. And I don't just mean emotional, I mean irrational and out of control. I would get angry at friends who didn't tag me Facebook photos. I left stores because I couldn't handle interacting with people or because I got fed up with perky saleswomen following me around and asking if I needed help. I once found myself driving home from work, stopped at a stop sign, tears streaming down my face and pounding my fists against the steering wheel because a pedestrian was crossing the street and I had to wait. See? CRAZY!!

The night of that incident with the pedestrian, I left my doctor the first of two voicemails telling her that I was feeling unbelievably depressed and out of control and that I wanted off the pills NOW. I asked her to please write me a prescription for the birth control I'd taken in my early twenties, a low dose of the tried and true Ortho Tri Cyclen. I started taking Ortho the following month and everything went back to normal. The mood swings stopped, the anger faded, and I was me again. I still had pretty consistent changes in mood and got overly emotional and sensitive, but it was ten times better than the hell I'd gone through with Seasonique.

Fast forward to about a year later. Time to see my awesome doctor again for my yearly check-up. I'd gotten fed up with remembering to take the pill every day and wanted to try something I didn't have to worry about. I had heard rave reviews about the Nuva Ring from several friends and thought, hey. Why not? I'll try that. And so I did. My doctor gave me two free samples on the spot.

So I tried the ring and everything was going great. I was keeping a careful eye on my moods and sleeping habits, watching out for the wild mood swings and deep depression I'd had while on Seasonique. No symptoms like last time. I was doing great... at least I thought I was.

One day, about a 6 weeks after I'd started the Ring, I was in a pretty foul mood. It was the second or third day I'd felt this way, but I attributed it to PMS or just a bad week at work. Then my roommate asked me how the Ring was working out. Was I feeling ok? Was I experiencing the same symptoms as last time? Was it making me crazy? I started to answer that I was fine, that I wasn't feeling anything NEARLY as awful as I'd felt on Seasonique. But then I stopped and thought for a few minutes. Why was she asking me this question with such a concerned look on her face? Had I changed? I was feeling awfully depressed. I hadn't been in a very good mood for over a week. I was hungry ALL the time and gaining weight. I'd been going to bed at 9:30 most nights. Something was definitely not right.

After some internet research on the side effects of the Ring, I decided to stop using it. The depression, along with some other gross side effects I won't go into, outweighed the convenience factor for me. So I finished out the month and stopped taking birth control completely. I was so paranoid about what the hormones were doing to me that I didn't even want to go back on the Ortho.

That was in April. It's now almost July and I feel absolutely fantastic. Better, in fact, than I've felt in years. No hormones, no pills, and no crazy. I can't remember the last time I overreacted to a situation or felt too depressed to get out of bed. And I just moved in with my boyfriend! You'd think that if something was truly not right with my brain parts, moving in together would have triggered some sort of wild reaction. But nope! I've had one panic attack over a couch, and nothing since.*

*This last paragraph and everything before it was written last week. It was before I'd started taking a new birth control called Tri-Sprintec, a generic version of Ortho-Tri-Cyclen. I took the first pill on Sunday night and woke up the next morning and almost vomited. The nausea was so bad I actually skipped work. I spent most of the morning in bed feeling like I was going to die, while Rad Boyfriend hugged me and brought me water and looked at me with his big eyes and said, "I hate that the pill is doing this to you."

I hate it, too. I've only been on it for 4 days and I'm already starting to feel the side effects. Or at least I've got it in my head that I'm feeling side effects. Why else would I slam doors and cry for no reason? Why else is my first reaction to an invitation to an event sheer anxiety?

Here's another good question: Why did I start taking oral contraception again? If all I do all day is think about how much I resent being on it, if it makes me so damn miserable, why do I do it to myself?

Because I'm now living with my boyfriend and it's the responsible thing to do. That's all I got. It's the adult thing to take a pill to make sex more convenient despite the fact that it's killing me inside.

Does that make ANY sort of sense to you? 

It sure doesn't to me. Which is why I made a deal with myself this time. First, I'm waiting on a call back from my doctor to discuss a low-dose version of the stuff I'm on now. Secondly, despite the outcome of that phone call, I'm giving this jagged wretched little pill exactly one month. And at the end of that month, I'm going to sit down and take a good, hard look at Danielle and her behavior for the past 28 days.That will determine whether or not I continue on any kind of hormonal birth control. If I don't feel like "me," if I'm crying because I burnt dinner or because Ikea refuses to restock the pillow I want, I'm done. No one should have to deal with not being in control of their emotions as a side effect of birth control. No one should be depressed and anxious and feel uncomfortable all the time in exchange for a spontaneous sex life.There are other options. And maybe it's time for me to explore them more thoroughly than a WebMD page.

End TMI.

Here's a picture of a wiener dog to make you smile after this horribly depressing post:

Monday, June 6, 2011

So I moved again

This time, in with the Rad Boyfriend. We are officially living in sin! Woohoo!

To say that life has been hectic lately is an understatement. Work has been absolutely crazy, I've been taking on some other side projects, and moving is..... oh how can I describe moving.... painful (both physically and mentally), time-consuming, and extremely stressful. Do you know that I had a panic attack over a couch two weeks ago? A COUCH! I managed to get myself worked up over an inanimate piece of furniture to the point where I had to please ask Rad Boyfriend to stop talking about the couch. ME. Asking my boyfriend to stop talking about interior design! 


You see, all we'd been doing for 10 days was talk about the couch. It wasn't choosing a couch that make me batty; that part was actually the easiest decision we made: we walked into Ikea and liked the very first one we sat on. Done and DONE. But then came choosing the fabric, aka the pre-made slipcovers that come in 7 different colors and textures and sizes. The fabric that makes you want to pull your hair out when you realize the kind you want is only available for the sofa and not for the chaise you want. THAT FABRIC. 

Internet, you should know something: IKEA LIES. Just because their website says they have something in their store does not make it true. No Ikea from San Diego to Tempe, Arizona has the particular cover for the chaise we wanted. said they had it in Costa Mesa, but they didn't. Then we called a friend who lives in Tucson, who just happened to be driving to Tempe for the weekend, to ask him if he could check the Ikea out there, because the website said they they had it. He called us from the store all, "They have it! Want me to buy it?" To which we responded, "Hell to the yes! We'll pay anything if you can ship it to us!" Immediately following this phone call, and armed with the knowledge that we could get the sofa AND the chaise we wanted in the FABRIC we wanted, we went to our local Ikea. We ordered the sofa, the sofa cover, and the chaise from the helpful salesperson up on the display floor. We went down to the "pick up your stuff here" area, and after Rad Boyfriend's head nearly exploded after a difficult conversation with another salesperson, we got everything we needed. SUCCESS! 

But then.... then. Then we got a phone call from our friend in Tempe who was still at Ikea. He informed us that they did not in fact have the chaise cover we wanted. Our reactions went something like this: 


Are f*cking kidding me?



Assurance that this fabric is a new item and Ikea will be getting a new shipment shortly. 


So. Now we have a couch in the upholstery we wanted, and a naked chaise lounge attachment thing in a box waiting for its cover. Not that it matters, as we still have a lot of decorating and purchasing to do, and a half-couch is not the biggest of our concerns. What matters is that we have someplace to sit and watch TV. 

So that's the story of the couch that gave me a panic attack. Now let's talk about how the blinds in our east-facing bedroom don't work, causing the sun to shine in at 5:30 every morning (and possibly allowing some neighbors to see me in my birthday suit, not that I really care). 

But I digress. I love our new apartment. I love my walk-in closet, I love the pool and the hot tub and the gated parking and the price of our rent. I'm sure we'll eventually get all the bugs worked, and I'm sure it'll feel more like a home with every personal touch we add.

And you know what I love most about my home? Who I share it with. All the stress and back pain I went through these past few weeks? TOTALLY. WORTH IT =)