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Posts published in “Main Courses”

Yogurt-marinated chicken

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I love using yogurt as a marinade for chicken. It works because the lactose in the dairy helps tenderize the meat but more importantly is a great carrier for flavorful spiceslike cumin, turmeric, and other Indian-inspired flavors. I used 0%, non-fat but you can use 2% or even whole milk yogurt for extra richness. Either way, the yogurt chars a little when cooking and develops little, crusty bits which I think are especially delicious.

I always make sure to set aside some of the marinade at the beginning to use as a sauce for serving at the end. As a reminder, it's never a good idea to reuse marinade after it has been in contact with raw meat.

To make the recipe extra easy and mess-free, you can go the tried-and-true route of combining all of the ingredients for the marinade and the chicken in a large, gallon sized plastic bag. Zip the bag and massage to combine. You still might want to place the bag in a bowl, glass or aluminum baking dish, or on a baking sheet pan to catch any dripsjust in case the bag has tiny holes that you otherwise aren't able to see.

I like the plastic bag option if I am going to be grilling elsewherelike at a friend or a family member's house or for a BBQ at the park or beachbecause it travels better and takes up less space if I am putting it into a cooler. If I am staying at home, though, I typically like to use my largest Pyrex glass bowl that has a nice, matching lidthere's no sense in using then tossing a plastic bag if I can avoid it.

The chicken is great by itself with a side of rice, couscous, or a vegetable but I especially love it served as a sandwich or a flatbread made with naan.

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

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Vegetarian shepherds pie was a staple dinner for me all of those years that I was following a stricter ovo-lacto vegetarian diet. Especially when I was in college, I could make this recipe on a weekend and have it several times as leftovers for dinner when I got home from school late during the week. It's easy to make, very satisfying and comforting to eat.

Fresh and Easy Greek Salad

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As much as I love to cook as a way to relax, we've all been there: coming home from a long day at work or school, just wanting something quick for dinner so the kitchen clean-up can be expedited and the unwinding after that can begin.

Fortunately, it doesn't take a lot of time at all to make a big main course salad—one of my go-tos for an easy dinner on a weeknight, on a hot summer night when turning on the oven is out of the question or, frankly, on any night when the last place that anyone wants to be is in the kitchen for a long period of time.

Served on a big platter for 2-4 people, salads make a complete meal with the addition of some protein or a side of bread while still being light enough not to weigh you down for the rest of the night. Cobb salad is a favorite of mine, but takes a lot of ingredients to get it all together: blue cheese, bacon, avocado... All delicious, but if you're really looking to cut down time and want to save a couple of pennies since avocados and a good blue cheese can get pricey, turn to Greek salad.

Pantry Raid: Baked Penne with Vodka Sauce

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Fact: Anything homemade is always better. Sauces, especially.

"Alternative" (ha, ha...) Fact: There are days when ain't nobody got time for that.

As far as I'm concerned, there's no shame in opening up a good boxed, canned jarred, or otherwise pre-made sauce from time to time. I've used many -- Italian marinaras and vodka sauces, Indian and Thai simmer sauces... -- for the makings of a quick, easy, and tasty meal on nights when the last thing that I want to do is stand by the stove and cook dinner and take-out isn't the greatest option either.

It's true that many pre-made sauces have extra preservatives and salt added to them, which are usually essential in the commercial canning process to ensure taste is consistent over time or from batch to batch. I often check the labels and find the ones with the fewest ingredients (where possible). 9 out of 10 times, these ingredients are also things that I can also easily pronounce. ;)

This baked pasta dish is an alternative to a traditional baked ziti with marinara sauce. It starts off very similar to another baked pasta dish that I posted about in the past and recently tweaked to include an easy Alfredo sauce in place of the jarred sauce (although it's perfectly fine to still use jarred in the recipe.) Onions and garlic, an essential foundation of anything that's bound to taste great IMHO, are cooked along with frozen spinach and sun dried tomatoes. A quality vodka sauce (I used Victoria) and cheese are added to cooked pasta in a large skillet, then the whole thing is topped with more cheese and baked.

So, clearly the message here is this: baked pasta is extremely versatile and can never be bad. ;) Easy to make ahead and freeze or make the same day, a delicious meal is on the table in just an under an hour.

Pantry Raid: Cannellini Bean Stew with Cherry Tomatoes and Spinach

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First of all, Happy New Year! Dave and I spent the long weekend in New York City. And the first thing you're probably thinking in response to that might be, You're insane. What about the crowds?

Well, we weren't feeling brave enough to head into Times Square and battle the crowd of nearly one million people who came out to see the ball drop. And we definitely weren't interested in standing out in the bitter cold for hours, either.

We had a great weekend, though, filled with wonderful food and drinks to celebrate not just New Year's Eve, but our 1 year anniversary and my (early) birthday. Surprisingly, it wasn't too hard to get in or out of the city. For a holiday weekend, travel on all accounts went surprisingly smooth.

Sadly, I find myself now feeling ill with what I think might be a cold that was developing all last week in spite of all of my wishing that it wasn't. The rest of this week isn't getting any warmer, either. For my birthday on Saturday, it's going to be a blustery zero degrees and probably colder than that with the windchill, well into the negative single (and maybe double?) digits. Joy.

Days like these call for something hot and comforting to take off the chill. Cannellini beans (white beans), frozen spinach, and a mirepoix of fresh vegetables (onions, carrots, and celery) are always well-stocked in my pantry to make soups and other meals that are always favorites to eat and quickly assembled.

This recipe uses leftover red wine for added depth of flavor. If you don't have any or would prefer not to use it, it's fine to just add extra vegetable or chicken broth. Likewise, a Parmesan cheese rind is nice to add in here, but don't sweat it if you don't have one to spare.

P.S. I'm transitioning all of the recipes over to a new plug-in tool as of today, so this one and others may look different as I'm getting them moved over. Let me know what you think of the new look and functionality.

Pantry Raid: Tex-Mex Casserole

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It was a snowy week here in the Northeast and I'm not a cold weather-loving person. Looking at the snowfall is all well and good, but I prefer to stay inside and do that. It's not that I'm necessarily scared about driving in bad weather—been there, done that—but everything that goes with said weather adds up to be a royal pain.

Cleaning off the car and walking on ice both suck...

Letting the car windows defrost for what feels like an eternity before it is possible to see clearly to drive anywhere is annoying...

And don't get me started on what it feels like to be in wet clothes after getting caught in the snow or trudging through feet of it after it's drifted across the driveway.

Ugh, ugh, and ugh.

As far as I'm concerned, on an icky day nothing beats staying toasty in the house, crafting or playing board games with plenty of time for cooking or baking in between breaks. When nobody has to venture out to get anything for dinner, thanks to leftovers or a well-stocked pantry and freezer, it's even better.

This is a vegetarian main dish that includes pantry-staples like salsa, tomatoes, and beans, and takes advantage of the oven—which helps to warm up the house on a cold day, too. Feel free to add chicken or cooked ground meat to the vegetable mixture, if you want added protein, and season to a heat level of your liking. As a happy compromise when I'm cooking for most of my friends and family, I sautee jalapeños (seeds and ribs included) with the rest of the vegetables and serve more fresh ones served alongside as an option, since there are different heat preferences ranging from no heat at all to spicy as possible (with myself preferring something towards the upper end of the heat spectrum.)