When I was in college, a staple dinner of mine was Shake & Bake chicken, a cooked veggie (usually steamed broccoli), and a Knorr’s Pasta or Rice. I was so proud that I had advanced past the days of Hamburger Helper (blech!). Nowadays, I think I’ve lost touch with the more simple meals. I’m always trying something new and spending insane amounts of time in the kitchen. When I came across this Crispy Cheddar Chicken recipe from Jamie Cooks It Up!, it reminded me just how simple a great dinner can be.
I made her recipe exactly as written, until I got to putting everything in the pan to cook. It was a disaster and I completely failed at getting everything to stick tot he chicken. So I said Enough! and proceeded to dump the topping (cheese & cracker mixture) on top of the chicken. It still tasted fantastic! The recipe below includes my modifications. The sauce is totally optional, and while I thought it was good, Ryan wasn’t crazy about it. In fact, he used some of the leftover gravy from the Chicken Fried Steak and said it was awesome.
I feel like everyone I know is always eating dinner out or ordering delivery. Pizza, Chinese food, subs, etc. I love to make take-out type food at home. It’s so much cheaper (even to feed just 2 people) and you can be sure that there are no weird chemicals added to keep it fresh. Last week I wanted Chinese food, but didn’t want fatty chicken or steak, with tons of salty sauce. It just so happened that one of my favorite bloggers, Beth @ Budget Bytes, was feeling Chinese-y as well, and she posted what looked like a great recipe for Easy Sesame Chicken.
Ever since Beth mentioned Jasmine rice in one of her posts, I’ve been using it in place of plain white rice. For some reason, when I make plain white rice it’s always gummy and sticks together. But not when I make Jasmine rice! This stuff is foolproof! Just make sure to follow the directions on the bag, because the water-to-rice ratio is a little bit different. I don’t know how Beth got her Sesame Chicken to be so beautiful and dark. My sauce looked great, just like hers, until I added the cornstarch as a thickener. Every time I add cornstarch to a sauce, it turns it a dull, muted color. Regardless, it tasted great, but just didn’t look as nice.
Every week I make at least one large-batch pasta dish. We usually eat it for dinner with a big salad and some yummy garlic bread, and then Ryan packs it for lunch a few days during the week because he is totally fine with cold pasta (and actually prefers it to heated-up leftover pasta). I once made an eggplant and ground turkey casserole, which was actually really good. That was when I was trying out the whole lactose/dairy-free diet. (This, from the girl who can’t live without cheese. No idea what I was thinking.) This time, I wanted to add pasta to it. And add pasta I did.
My inspiration: Eggplant Marinara from Meet Penny. But I wanted more than just eggplant. I wanted some extra protein, so I added 1/2 pound of ground turkey. I also cannot find tomatoes that I really like in the grocery store, so I go with canned most of the time. (Unless my dear grandma happens to have some extra home-grown beefsteak tomatoes laying around, of course. Those are to die for.) I have to say, this was really, really good. As usual, we had a few pieces of Texas toast and a salad with it and this was enough for more than 4 dinner-sized portions.
We usually don’t eat steak. In fact, we don’t even eat ground beef much anymore because we’re trying to decrease the amount of red meat in our diet.* Have you ever tried to replace ground beef with ground turkey in tacos, chili, or burgers? Surprisingly, with the right seasonings and the right cooking time, I’ve had great results!
That being said, Ryan says he sometimes “craves” steak. Personally, I don’t get this “craving”, but it’s nice to indulge sometimes, so we try to have real beef (whether it’s steak or ground) once or twice a month. This time around, I wanted to have something home-y and comfort-food-y (is that a word? I don’t think so. Oh well, I like it.)
My inspiration: Country Fried Steak Tips in Gravy from Meet Penny. But I’m not crazy about drenching my steak tips in gravy, so I served it on the side. I also didn’t think the gravy would be flavorful enough for us, so I skipped the homemade and went the quick-and-easy route: packaged dry mix.
We had horseradish mashed potatoes (mash 1-2 Tbsp prepared horseradish, fat free sour cream, and butter with 4-5 cooked potatoes) and corn on the cob on the side.
I’ve been on a homemade pizza kick lately. I don’t know what it is, but smelling pizza baking is akin to smelling chocolate chip cookies baking. It’s okay, I know what you’re thinking and I know I’m strange. Moving on.
I knew I wanted some kind of chicken pizza, because I’m trying to use less red meat in an effort to eat a little healthier, and unfortunately, pepperoni counts as red meat (shocker!), so chicken it is. I was tired of BBQ chicken pizza (with red onion slices and some ranch dressing drizzled on top — mmm!), so I tried to find something a little.. different. And definitely not traditional.
My inspiration: Gourmet White Chicken Pizza from Meet Penny. But I’ve had very little success getting Ryan to eat a “white” pizza (i.e. no sauce) that’s not white spinach-and-onion pizza. So I changed things up a little.
We love fish tacos. No really, you don’t get it. We LOVE them. Usually I make Giada’s Tilapia Fish Tacos with Arugula (with the cutest wonton-wrapper shells), but this week I wanted fish tacos that were faster to make. Plus, I had salmon in the freezer, not tilapia, and I wasn’t sure if the flavors would really meld right with salmon because it has such a strong flavor on its own.
Enter: Blackened Salmon Tacos.
My inspiration: Alaska from Scratch’s Blackened Salmon Tacos with Avocado Corn Salsa and Cilantro Ranch Dressing. But my Blackened Salmon Fish Tacos are much much simpler and toned-down than these. Check out my version and prepare to be amazed at the simplicity.