A Healthy Twist on Chicken Parmesan

It’s never easy to commit to diet changes, which is why a lot of diets are temporary. Well I’m here to help change that! I find that the best success in dieting comes with making small but import and changes to one’s diet slowly. Don’t get me wrong–if you’re having a health crisis, it’s time to make some big changes NOW. However, if you’re not in health crisis and just looking to improve upon or build a solid base, well then–LET’S GO.
Take a family favorite like chicken parmesan. It’s a lot of cheese, carbs, and deliciosity. Let’s make it a little healthier!
Let’s start with the most glaring item first: The noodles. Did you know many vegetables make good substitutes for noodles? Cauliflower, for example, can be put through a ricer after being steamed and will make a very passable rice substitute (and when steamed and blended in a food processor, makes for a stunning mashed potato substitute). Similarly, zucchini (when shredded or spiralized), is the perfect bed for many pasta dishes! Chicken parmesan is my favorite example of subbing pasta.



Now, let’s move on to the other items.

Breadcrumbs–my rule of thumb with things like this (i.e. items that add crunch and enjoyment to the palate but do not necessarily add health) is to either purchase a product with the shortest ingredient list possible (and all real food ingredients!!) or to just make them myself! For breadcrumbs, I usually purchase them, and I’m also a fan of subbing in rice crackers for those of us going GF. Simply crush the rice crackers in a ziplock until they resemble breadcrumbs. Done!

Dairy–this is a trickier one because not all recipes will bounce back from omission of dairy products! Even some of my substitutes have flopped. The key is to not get discouraged, and try to step out of your comfort zone here. I usually sub in unsweetened almond milk for most recipes, but I have also been known to use coconut milk in some situations. Both items are excellent to keep in the cupboard. With this recipe, almond or even goat’s milk work great. As for the cheese–I try to always go with the freshest (or best aged) cheese in blocks, not in shredded form. We lean away from shredded because a large percentage of the non-caking agent used is wood pulp, and I would much rather pay less (in many cases) and get a better product that I know will all be cheese when I put it through my grater. I do not think this recipe is ruined either, if one were to decide to omit the cheese from the recipe.

One last note–prepared sauces–I know in most of my diets, this is usually a “pass on it” item, as they tend to be higher in sugar and other preserving agents. I have found that Trader Joe’s does offer a few organic pasta sauces that meet both my sugar and ingredient standards. This, of course, is a personal call. I would prefer a jarred tomato sauce over canned due to the acidic reaction that can occur between tomatoes and the tin can.

A Twist on Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients

1 lb chicken breast, thinly sliced or pounded 1/2 inch thin
1/4 c milk (almond milk is a decent substitute)
1 egg
1/4-1/2 c breadcrumbs
1 1/2 t Marshall’s Haute Rub (or similar) sandwich rub (the key is to have a rub with a savory and spicy combination)
1/2 T coconut oil
3 medium zucchini, spiralized or very thinly sliced
1 jar pasta sauce (look for organic, low sugar options–or homemade!)
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/2 c parmesan cheese, grated

Method

When I make this recipe, I always forget to start with the zucchini! Silly me. Please learn from me and always start with the zucchini! You can always return the “noodles” to the fridge while you cook up the chicken! I love using our Spirooli (see how they work here), which has a whole bunch of different attachments and such. I received the Spirooli as a gift a few years back and have a goal to try new vegetables in 2014!


These noodles come out surprisingly flexible, and once added with hot chicken and sauce, the noodles will act very much like a nicely al dente pasta!

Meanwhile, mix the rub with the breadcrumbs. If you are going for the GF version, I find that gluten free rice crackers work very well (if smashed into little tiny crumbs). Whisk together the egg and milk; dip both sides of the chicken in the mixture, and transfer to the breadcrumb/rub and encase the chicken completely. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high heat, melt coconut oil in the pan and, when hot, add the chicken breasts. Fry until browned and cooked through. Remove to a fresh plate. Warm pasta sauce on low heat.

Load a plate or bowl with a handful of zucchini, and top with chicken, mozzarella, sauce, and parmesan. Serve immediately. This recipe serves 4.

The rub in this recipe introduces a great depth to the chicken that you wouldn’t normally get with just chili flakes or oregano. Grab some of this fabulous rub online through Marshall’s Haute Sauce’s site.


What recipes do you make often? Post in the comments, and we can brainstorm ways to make them healthy!

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