Main Dishes

Main Dish Recipes

Croque Madame, S’il vous plait

Such a fancy name for a such a simple sandwich.  In short, this is a dressed up grilled cheese.  How dressed up, you ask?  Well, more dressed up than church on Sunday.  More dressed up than the night you anticipate being proposed to over a candle-lit dinner.  We’re talking dressed up for Senior prom where you have been nominated for Prom Queen, and your boyfriend (the quarterback) is up for King.  This is a special sandwich.


When I went to France in high school I was less inclined to embark on culinary adventures.  We dined at The Hark Rock Cafe, and I even ate lunch at McDonalds…more than once.  In Paris!  Crazy.  I know.  Let’s blame it on me being a naive teenager.  Let’s also blame that purchase of raspberry cigarettes on naivety.  Moving on…

One day for lunch, famished from a morning visit to the Louvre, some friends and I stopped at the first cafe we saw.  Using some of my French food vocabulary I saw “croque-monsieur” on the menu and knew that a French grilled cheese with ham was something I could definitely enjoy.  A French version of fast food.  Warm, grilled bread, melted cheese and sweet & salty ham.  You cannot go wrong with this choice.


Carrie’s “Empty the Fridge” Chicken Salad

Like many other people who are dealing with the less than stellar economy, Ben and I have tried to be more aware of what we spend, what we buy, what we waste, and how we can be a bit wiser with our money.   My baking and cooking habits are a big part of our budget, so I have been trying to use what we have in the house as often as I can and making recipes revolve around those ingredients instead of finding a recipe that requires that I buy everything and use nothing I have on hand.  I was proud of myself for using just 1 butternut squash in two recipes last week.  This recipe was also a way to use what we had.  It makes cooking more fun and makes me try things I would not have otherwise.

chickensaladThis chicken salad came about like many meals do for me; I had to either use some chicken thighs I had in the fridge in the next few days, or they would need to be thrown away.  So, I made a decision to do something with them…that something was yet to be determined when I put them in a plastic bag to marinate in some Italian dressing that was almost empty.  After an overnight flavor bath, I still had no plan.  Well, I guess baking them would be a good idea.  So, that’s what I did.

While they were cooking, I went rummaging in the pantry and fridge for some inspiration. Celery…onion…mustard…mayonnaise…basil…Parmesan cheese…pine nuts…Carrie’s Chicken Salad was born.  I will say that the idea for the pine nuts was not my own.  A sandwich place in College Station, Blue Baker, put pine nuts in their chicken salad and it was one of my favorite items on the menu.  That and the Mediterranean pizza.  I sure do miss that place.  If you ever go for breakfast, you must get the spinach, egg and feta breakfast sandwich on a croissant.  It is decadent, but will also keep you full enough to not need a big lunch.  Ok, back to the matter at hand…


Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Sage

Originally I made this pasta dish because I had leftover squash from the butternut squash spice cake.  In the future I will buy a butternut squash with it’s sole purpose being the foundation of this meal.  I was expecting something tasty, and I was not disappointed.  How can one go wrong with a pasta dish where bacon and sage are involved?  You can’t.


I found so many variations on butternut squash sauce for pastas.  At first I started to get an anxiety attack.  What is the BEST way?  Please!  Someone!  Just give me the all time best recipe so that I will stop wasting my time browsing recipe after recipe finding something about the ingredient list or preparation in each recipe to be lacking!  Then an ingenious idea came to me.  Would it be so wrong for me to take the things I liked best about all the recipes and make…my own recipe?  I keep getting braver and braver, people!  One of these days I will use nothing but pure instinct in the kitchen…someday.


Chicken Pot Pies

potpie1Step aside Marie Callendar.  Your frozen pot pies, while delicious and a snap to bake, cannot hold a candle to these truly delicious and homemade chicken pot pies.  Yum.

The cool fall weather we’ve had the last couple days here in Amarillo demanded some serious comfort food.  Ben made a fire Saturday afternoon since the temperature hovered around 40 most of the day and dropped down to 30 that night.  Today it was close to 90.  Gotta love the Panhandle!


Dinner Rush: Chorizo and Black Bean Mexican Tortas

I have too many cooking magazines, too many cookbooks, and way too many printed recipes from various websites.  Even if I were to cook something from one of these sources everyday, there is no possible way that I could exhaust my recipe stockpile in my lifetime.  I don’t help the situation by buying more cookbooks, more magazines, and printing more website recipes.  I’ll admit it, I have a problem.  Progress is being made, though.  I did find a recipe in the September issue of Food & Wine magazine yesterday that I made for dinner last night.  I didn’t just mark it with a sticky note or tear the page out as something I’ll make someday.  I MADE it, and we ate it, and it was yummy.



Jalapeño Blue Cheese Burgers

Sweet fancy Moses!  These burgers were my favorite out of all the burgers in the Zinnecker Burger Marathon.  The burgers were moist, juicy, flavorful, delectable, mouthwatering…crazy good.


I baked a bag of sweet potato fries served with spicy aioli (courtesy of Carrie Hartman) to accompany these burgers and they were the perfect match.

I adapted this recipe from an burger recipe of the same name.  Here is my adapted recipe and the recipe for the aioli which I also used on the burgers.





Dinner Rush: Steak & Provolone Panini

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t blogged about panini yet.  I make them almost once a week and it’s usually a way to use up leftover steak or chicken, so this is a quick and easy dinner.


Ben is becoming quite the master at marinating and grilling New York strip steaks.  It’s almost disappointing to eat steak at a restaurant now.  He usually buys 2 strips and I almost never finish my entire steak, so we’re left with half of a great cut of meat that just cannot be thrown away or given to Ginger.  As much as I love that dog, I don’t think feeding her a piece of meat worth $5 is justified.


Easy Mac and Cheese with Chicken

There is something to be said for Kraft Mac and Cheese.  That’s right.  I said it.  Come on people.  You know you love it.  It’s the cheesiest and it doesn’t stick to your cookware like real cheese does.  I honestly and truly like, and sometimes I even crave the unnatural orange colored pasta dish in its blue box of goodness.  However, there are times when a girl needs to eat mac and cheese made from scratch.  This macaroni and cheese recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens website.


I loved the crunchy breadcrumbs on top of this dish.  The sauteed onions and garlic mixed with tomato paste give the sauce a richer flavor that is more than just milk and cheese.  I used 2% milk and half swiss, half sharp cheddar with a great resulting flavor.  I cooked the chicken in chunks, but ended up kind of shredding it into smaller pieces before adding it to the cheese.  The recipe calls for penne or similar pasta, but I used traditional elbow macaroni.


Dinner Rush: Greek Burgers with Tomato Jam

Over the past few week we have eaten burgers more than once a week.  I know.  Not exactly health food.  We did make them ourselves and tried some pretty different combinations of flavors.  These Greek burgers were the first in our series of burgers, and I thought they were delicious.  I love feta cheese, so the presence of that ingredient alone in the meat mixture had be smitten even while the meat was raw, but don’t worry, I did not do any taste testing until after they were cooked.



Dinner Rush: Zucchini, Tomato Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Ricotta

Easy weeknight meal #2.  This one was quicker than last week’s Mango Shrimp, and cheaper!  If you choose to leave out the chicken sausage, then its an even more frugal (and also a vegetarian) dinner.  Nothing in the preparation of this dish is time consuming.  There is a little chopping and slicing to do, but nothing tedious…unless you consider slicing a couple garlic cloves to be tedious.

I don’t often make vegetarian dishes when I cook for Ben and myself.  I am content with a dinner where mushrooms, black beans or artichokes are the “meat”.  Tofu?  Not yet, people.  I fear tofu.  Ben would prefer chicken, beef, turkey, etc. as a part of a balanced meal.  So, I made this pasta dish with chicken sausage.  Ben liked this addition, but I think it would have been better as a purely vegetarian pasta.  I love my husband, and I like him to be happy…so I will make this again with the chicken sausage or maybe prosciutto.  Ben can eat his meaty pasta, but I will set aside some pure, vegetable goodness for myself before adding the animal product.  Marriage is all about compromise!

pasta1This meal came about by reading a Martha Stewart recipe for Penne alla Norma which sounded so good…until I reached the line that read…EGGPLANT…gasp…blech!  I hate eggplant.  If someone wants to convince me that it’s delicious, then fly me to your house and treat me to dinner featuring this outwardly beautifully purple vegtable with an slimy inner evil.  If you can convince me that it’s edible…I will retract the last few remarks and worship you.

Anyway, I decided to replace the eggplant in the recipe with zucchini.  That was the first change I made to the original recipe, and some other changed followed; added the chicken sausage, used grape tomatoes, doubled the tomato paste, and the basil, and reserved the pasta water to make the dish saucier.  I also used whole wheat penne.

I really like this pasta.  The vegetables were just tender, not too hard or too mushy.  The flavor of the sauce had a perfect level of spicy because of the red pepper, and it was light enough to be a good summer pasta.  A dollop of ricotta on top gave the pasta a nice amount of creaminess and was also a great complement to the spice.  You could sprinkle parmesan on top instead, but I really liked the refreshing ricotta. (more…)