My youngest daughter graduated from high school last night. She requested a special meal to celebrate. I didn’t have to run to the store because this meal is made up of things I usually already have in my pantry and freezer.

It’s a meal that’s inexpensive and quick to throw together, if you take steps to prep ahead. I stock up when the price is right.  I pound my chicken breasts when I get home from the store before freezing and I tend to have homemade sauce in the freezer. If you don’t pound it ahead it only takes minutes to pound your chicken breasts into a uniform thickness and you could always use your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. You could also use canned or even fresh tomatoes for a less saucy and fresher approach.

Start out by coating your boneless, skinless chicken breasts with your favorite bread crumbs. Then brown them on both sides in a pan coated with olive oil. You could use canola oil too. It’s still better for you and cheaper than olive oil.

You want to make sure you get some nice color on your breasts. This develops the flavor.

After you have your chicken nicely browned place it in a baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. This helps with clean up later on. Don’t we all want to enjoy our meal and not have to worry so much what a mess it will make when it’s time to scrub that pan?

Top your chicken with your favorite Italian cheese blend. I used shredded mozzarella that I had left over from making mountain pies on our camping trip. I also used Parmesan, but let’s face it, even ricotta mounded on there, or some slices of Provolone would be nice.

Bake it in the oven preheated to 350 degrees F until your chicken is cooked through and your sauce is bubbly hot. This will depend on how thin you pounded your breasts. Mine were in the oven for about 30 minutes. Yes my cheese started to brown. That’s the way we like it. If you want yours more gooey and less brown, cover your dish with foil for the first 20 minutes and take it off at the end.

At the beginning I mentioned that this dish was frugal. You can make this as frugal or as expensive as you want it to be. I can usually find boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99 per pound. If you pound them it stretches the surface area making them look like there is more. Remember that a serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards and half of a cup of pasta is a carb serving. You can serve a little chicken and more pasta to stretch your dollar, for those with huge appetites. You could also fill up on salad. I happened to get a deal on that this week too. Look for BOGO deals and when you buy it, eat it. Salad is low calorie and Romaine lettuce has almost the nutritional profile of spinach. Look for dark leafy greens. That’s where the vitamins are. There are also coupons out there for salads, organic too. I served this meal with a salad. I used a “plus” pasta with added protein, and less carbs that I got almost free with a coupon. Whole grain pasta is another option. Enjoy! Congratulations to Classes of 2012 everywhere!

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