Friday, August 24, 2012

Not Our Odinary Chicken (Recipe, Pics and Review)

Last week you may remember that I decided to try at least one new "out of the box" (for me) dinner each week, take pics and post it for you all.  I went way out on a limb this week and tried a very new ingredient for my family...eggplant.  I have never made eggplant, and my kids have never eaten it before.  Don't click away yet!  Keep reading...

I got this recipe once again from dLife, but I changed it a little bit.  I changed an ingredient and changed some of the measurements.  I don't know about you, but my family likes a "hearty" meal.  I realize that I am cooking healthier, but that doesn't mean we have to eat like birds and still feel hungry when we're done.  And if you're increasing the right things, it's not going to be bad for you.

Here are the ingredients for Chicken Eggplant Casserole (serves 8):

1 1/2 - 2 eggplants (I used about 14 oz total), peeled, cut into 12-14 slices (I cut mine about 1/4" thick)
Cooking spray
4 Tbsp Parmesan Romano or Asiago cheese, fresh (I used a container of Buitoni brand)
3/4 tsp garlic powder (or 1 to 2 cloves minced garlic)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
2 - 14 1/2 oz cans Italian Seasoned diced tomatoes (drain about 1/2 the juice)
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 medium onion chopped
3/4 C chopped up mushroom slices
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 C mozzarella cheese (use reduced fat to lower calories and fat of recipe), shredded

Prepare Eggplant Slices
1.  Preheat oven to broil.
2.  Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet.  Mist with cooking spray.
3.  Place in oven about 4 inches from the heat and bake for about 2 minutes.
4.  Turn over eggplant, mist with cooking spray again, and top this side of the eggplant with the Parmesan Romano cheese.  Broil for 1 minute, or until golden. Set aside.

Prepare Filling
5.  Heat a non stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium high heat for 1 minute.  Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until no longer pink.
6.  Add the tomatoes (with 1/2 the juice), onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and black pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F
Assemble Casserole
7.  Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.  Arrange half the eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish.  Cover with all of the chicken and tomato mixture.  Arrange the other half of the eggplant slices over the top.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.
8.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  (I did not have foil, and so I don't know what it's supposed to turn out like with the dish covered, but uncovered it still seemed to turn out fine.)
When I made this dish, the directions said not to drain the juice from the tomatoes.  But, when I served it, there ended up being a lot of extra liquid running on the plate and it wasn't attractive.  I'm not sure what the purpose of having all that juice in there would be, so I thought it would be best to drain at least one can of the tomatoes.  So, my plate was not pretty.  I'm showing you a pic of Sami's vegetarian version because it looks nicer.  Instead of dumping all the ingredients right in the pan with the chicken, I put the tomatoes, vegetables, and seasonings in a bowl and stirred it up.  Then I scooped a little of it out and put it in a separate pan with her fake chicken.  Then I dumped the bowl into the pan with the real chicken.  So, when I scooped out some of the mixture for her plate, I didn't get much juice in the scoop, and her plate looked much nicer than mine did.
I would like to add that I think this dish would be good served with some brown rice or quinoa cooked in chicken broth.

Now, for the taste test results of my guinea pig family.  They are such good sports!  They all balked at the thought of eating *gasp* eggplant.  Like I said, this is completely new to them.  It was a little funny when they asked how they were supposed to eat it, and I had to demonstrate to them how to cut a piece off with my fork.  Matthew (12) and Sami (16, vegetarian) both really liked it.  Sami was very interested in the healthfulness of the dish.  I guess she thought since it tasted so good and "hearty" that it must be bad for you.  Wrong!  This dish is VERY healthy.  Sara (10) tasted but did not care for the eggplant.  But she devoured the chicken and tomato filling, so it was still a win in my book.  At least she tried the eggplant.  When I was her age I didn't like it either, but I really enjoyed it this time around.  I also didn't cut my eggplant slices very thick so as to not overwhelm everyone on their first try of it.  Jeff gave it a thumb's up, and really dove into his.  He had seconds.  Again tonight there were no leftovers.  Score!  I think overall it was a success and everyone in the family would like to have it again.

On to the nutritional values.  If you search through the ginormous database of recipes on dLife and happen to find this one, you will notice that my nutritional values are different from theirs.  As I mentioned in the beginning, I changed some of the amounts of the ingredients which will alter the nutritional numbers per serving.  As I have written the instructions here, it serves 8:

188.8 Calories, 5.9g fat, 2.6g saturated fat, .18g polyunsaturated fat, .23g monounsaturated fat, 58mg cholesterol, 354mg sodium, 189mg potassium, 10g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 24g protein.  (5 Points Plus) What a healthy dinner!!!  And, as I said above, with these kinds of numbers it would be perfectly acceptable to add some brown rice or quinoa on the side.

My family and I recommend Chicken Eggplant Casserole.  It has a wonderful Italian flavor and aroma and it is also hearty.  I think you will enjoy it!  If you decide to try it, let me know how you and your family like it.  You can leave a comment here or you can always drop me a line at

Blissful Eating Everyone!

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