A Favorite Recipe: Crispy Cheddar Chicken

So, I have this recipe that I found on Pinterest. I’ve made it probably close to a dozen times for my family (i.e. my parents, siblings and nieces) – and it has become the meal we eat on Christmas Eve – my nieces are very much into tradition and expect it now. I will caution you now in saying that it isn’t exactly the healthiest, though it might be a good alternative to fried chicken and it sure is mighty tasty! While I got this recipe off of Pinterest, I did get the details from keyingredient.com – and the photo associated to this post came from there as well – unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the numerous times I’ve made this.

Ingredients

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt – though I find that the salt from the crackers is sometimes enough
  • 1/8 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 3 cups of cheddar cheese, grated – little note here, don’t be lazy and buy the pre-shredded cheese. When you use cheese you grated yourself it sticks to the chicken better
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley – this is really just a recommendation, as I don’t normally use the parsley

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 (10-ounce) can of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of butter

Directions

  • Crush the Ritz crackers – I generally open the 2 sleeves of crackers and place them in a Ziploc bag and run a rolling pin over the crackers.
  • Cut each chicken breast into 2 or 3 large pieces – depending on the size of the chicken breasts
  • Pour the milk, cheese, and cracker crumbs into 3 bowls
  • Toss the salt and pepper into the cracker crumbs and stir the mixture around to combine
  • Dip each piece of chicken into the milk and then the cheese
  • Press the cheese into the chicken with your fingers – this is where having freshly grated cheese is a plus!
  • Then press the cheesy coated chicken into the cracker crumbs and press it in firmly
  • Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray – especially important because the cheese will run onto the pan causing major stickage
  • Lay the chicken inside the pan
  • If using parsley – sprinkle over the chicken
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes
  • Remove the aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the edges of the chicken are golden brown and crispy

The Sauce

  • In a medium sized sauce pan, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream and butter with a whisk.
  • Stir it over medium high heat until the sauce is nice and hot – this won’t take long, so definitely do this part during the last 10-15 minutes the chicken is cooking
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken and dinner is served! (I put the sauce on the side for nieces so they dip their chicken in it).

chicken

Hope you enjoy!

Signature

Italy Adventures: Tuscany Edition

italy-adventures-tuscany-edition

Dear readers – this is my last “Italy Adventures” blog post…but have no fear (wipe your tears) there are always more adventures around the corner that I’ll be excited to share with you, so for now here is the final edition – Tuscany style!

I have to be honest, when I thought of Italy I didn’t really think of Tuscany. Don’t ask me why – I mean, I’m a huge wine lover etc. but it wasn’t at the top of my list. However, a couple of the girls were interested in visiting Tuscany so we added it to the itinerary. I would say the only downfall to this Tuscany trip was that many of the little towns/villages we visited were essentially closed for holiday. It would have been nice to see the bustling little towns and have the ability to walk into many of the wine shops and cute little stores but the ones that we were able to visit were definitely not a disappointment.

We decided to rent a car and drive up to the Tuscany/Siena region. It was approximately a little of an hour drive through the beautiful countryside. Our first stop was in San Gimigniano in Siena. Holy smokes it was cold there! But it was absolutely beautiful. We walked around the little town and climbed to the top of buildings to take in the countryside view. It really was stunning (despite our chattering teeth). Once we wrapped up there we hopped in the car and drove to Montepulciano where we found it was also quiet and a lot of shops were closed up, however we did find a yummy place to eat where I think I ordered the most beautiful raviolis I’ve ever seen! We walked around there a bit more, had some espresso, and hopped back in the car as we had probably about another 1 hour long drive to our Airbnb.

We definitely got a little lost on our way to our Airbnb – I think mainly because the little cottage we were staying in was well off the beaten path, and not well marked. We had to go down a narrow gravel road (as the sun was setting – we were hoping to get there before it was dark), then drive onto someone’s property (of whom we hoped was going to be the Airbnb host). I had received correspondence from the host letting me know that she was going to be at university when we would be checking in, but that her Dad would help get us settled. She then said that he doesn’t know any English, but that he was very friendly…uh oh. We drove onto the property and were promptly met with a little dog that was barking at us like crazy and trying to jump into the car through the driver side window. I had no clue who I was supposed to be looking for and this little old lady comes out to see what all the commotion is about with the dog, sees our car and then takes off back into the house. We were all just sitting there trying to figure out what our next move should be.

Eventually a man walks out – who we assumed must be our host’s dad. He walks up to the car and we are trying to tell him we are there to check into our Airbnb. Nothing is triggering in terms of word recognition – Stephanie is having a hard time communicating with him (and she knows more Italian than all of us combined!) and Kelly had been getting by fairly well on this trip since she knows Spanish fluently – but even that wasn’t really working…so then we say his daughter’s name, Sabrina. Ding! Full recognition and now he knows why we are there. So he guides us to the cutest little cottage, on the prettiest winery we’ve ever seen!

We get inside and he starts showing us where everything is and how it all works. Then we ask him where the nearest store is – he pulls out a map and shows us where to go. He takes our passports to make a copy – he’s gone for a few minutes and returns with wine he has made there on the winery! It was the sweetest gesture. We thanked him and then headed out for the store. We stocked up on meat and wine and cheese and some frozen pizzas (hah!) seems funny now but we were only staying one night. When we returned we all settled in and started cooking and opening wine and just having a nice relaxing evening.

A little while later Sabrina and her Dad come by to make sure we are settled and have everything we need. They truly were the kindest Airbnb hosts. She told us to take our time leaving in the morning – which was nice to not have a set check-out time, and then her Dad said something to her in Italian – she smiles and says, “My Dad wanted me to tell you that white and red wine don’t mix well together.” We all started laughing! Her dad had brought us his homemade red wine and we had purchased a couple of bottles of white while we were at the store. We promptly told him we were pros and we could handle both (which we did). He smiled, and shrugged. We were sure to leave him a nice note about how much we loved his wine before we left the next morning – because it really was absolutely delicious. After they left we settled in and just had a night full of laughs and good conversation.

When we rented the car there was this issue with the car not having snow chains. Apparently, in Italy all rental cars need to have snow chains. I was thinking to myself that I know it’s freaking cold, but really snow chains? Well, we didn’t get snowed in, but we definitely saw snow! We woke up the next morning to see that mother nature had dumped snow all over the vineyard. I had never really seen a snow covered vineyard, it was beautiful.

We took our time getting ready and leaving that morning and headed for another little town in Montepulciano. It was still VERY cold and the little town was pretty much closed up but we did do a little wine tasting, and ate delicious food! We spent a little bit of time there and then hopped back in the car to head back to Florence.

This trip was fantastic (obviously). I think I officially have the travel bug and cannot wait to plan my next big international trip. Most importantly though, this trip opened my eyes to something. I’m going to be 34 this year, I’m unmarried and don’t have any children. For me that was not in my grand master plan (but who has a grand master plan that actually falls in place?) nonetheless, I believe that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason and a bigger plan for me to be unmarried in my almost-mid-30’s – I have the time, the resources, and a job that enables me to take this time off to travel. I know that people still travel once they’re married and have kids etc., and as selfish as this may sound – this trip was mine. It will always be mine. I shared it with some FANTASTIC friends, but it will always be my first trip to Italy – it will always be before getting married and before having kids, and something just plain special about that. I think having this time in my 30’s to do these things is why all that other stuff is on hold, and I’m more content with that then I’ve ever been.

Life is good – and all that other stuff will come in time and make life even better, but until then I will embrace these opportunities and take advantage of the adventures I get to take with some of the coolest people I know.

Ciao!

Signature

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 4

31-days-of-gratitude-3

What food are you most grateful for?

This one is a hard choice to make. I love a lot of different food – and if it’s fried or has cheese on it I’ll probably love it! BUT, there is a particular food that my world revolved around for a number of years while I was a teenager. That food is pizza. I worked at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace which was the local pizza hang out in my neighborhood. I worked there for a couple of years during my teenage years, and to this day I still say that it was my absolute favorite place to work.

This pivotal part of my life, the part of your life when you BECOME a true teenager, when you meet some of the best friends you’ll have for life, and when you fall in love for the first time, all evolved from Bronco Billy’s. It started the summer I turned 15 when I was working at a day camp. A majority of the counselors, as well as the director of the camp (all in their late teens and early to mid-twenties) worked at camp during the summer days and then worked at the pizza place in the evenings. It was my second year as a junior counselor, and I was well on my way to becoming a counselor in training the following year – it was everything I had strived for and I was loving it. The director was also a manager at Bronco Billy’s and asked if I would be interested in working a couple of nights a week at the pizza place. Heck yes! I was SO excited. I went in to fill out the application, met Tito the crazy Armenian guy who ran the place, and I was immediately put on the schedule. To say I was psyched and over the moon all wrapped into one is an understatement.

What I didn’t realize was how much that job was going to define that time in my life. I learned the worth of a dollar, how to support myself, how to budget my money, how to prioritize important things – I was working and in high school at the same time, and I made relationships that have spanned almost 20 years. I met a group of guys I can easily say are still like the older brothers I never had and I met and dated the first guy I ever loved during that time period (though he didn’t work at the pizza place). Not only was this pizza place impactful on my life as a teenager, but as a child we spent a lot of time there as well.

Behind the counter we would laugh and sing, and throw stuff at each other. Someone once threw a pepperoni at me and hit me smack in the middle of my forehead – a week before my Senior Prom. I freaked out and had to wash my face immediately. And, if anyone thinks I have really good slip reflexes, it’s because that floor at the pizza place could get unbelievably slippery. I laugh as I write this thinking about how may people fell and/or slipped. You may think it’s wrong to find this funny, but no one ever actually got hurt – and we all thought it was hysterical – it was a comedic break at a place that was slammed on Friday and Saturday nights, and since it is so close to Cal State East Bay, it was also a popular place on Monday nights after the fraternity’s and sorority’s had their weekly meetings.

I grew up while working at Bronco Billy’s and it helped shape who I am and who I have in my life, and because of that I am forever grateful for pizza! (As a matter of fact, that’s where I had dinner tonight) 😉