Main Dishes

Main Dish Recipes

Dinner Rush: Shrimp with Mango Sauce and Quinoa Salad

The school year is about to begin!  My first day of teacher prep began today, so my casual lifestyle with tons of free time is about to come to an abrupt and unpleasant end.  Taking 8 months off from work to take a couple of part time jobs was pretty great.  It enabled me to move in to our new house and spend time getting things organized and just like I wanted them, running errands as needed, going to the gym whenever I wanted to, playing with the dog, baking and cooking without time restraints, perusing the Internet at my leisure and blogging whenever I pleased!  These days are sadly over.  I will miss you, my lazy life.

I must somehow move on to my new life with a positive attitude and a determination to somehow manage a full time job and the rest of the things I need and want to do.  Hold on, there are women who have more demanding jobs than I do, AND they have children, AND they’re members of groups and clubs, AND they take care of their house, AND they cook dinner, AND do laundry, AND blog!  If they can do it, then measly little me can do it!

I will not allow my new Monday thru Friday, 8-5 (or 6 some days) job keep me from making dinner on the weeknights.  I will also not stoop to macaroni and cheese from a box or putting a frozen pizza in the oven.  I WILL make real dinner!  So, every week I will make, review and blog about quick and easy dinner recipes that can be accomplished by a full time working woman…like I will be as of August 24.


These recipes come from Epicurious Dinner Rush from issues of Gourmet and SELF.  They are both quite delicious.  The most time consuming thing about them is the chopping and prep.  I modified the quinoa recipe quite a bit after speaking with my wiser and younger sister, Sarah, who told me that the preparation of the quinoa in the actual recipe was a bit ridiculous.  I hadn’t ever used quinoa before, so I thought the process of washing it 5 times in cold water, cooking for 10 minutes in boiling water and then steaming it in a sieve for 10 minutes above the boiling water was normal!  Turns out, all you have to do is cook the quinoa as you would rice.  Hooray!  That little change made this dish much faster.

There is a recipe for lime and cumin dressing that goes with the salad, but I didn’t use it.  Instead of the olive oil based dressing, I simply tossed the salad with lime juice, cumin and some kosher salt.  I found the salad to be incredibly light and refreshing.  I thought about adding chopped tomatoes, but opted not to this time.  It would be delicious, though, so I may try it next time.  Here is the original recipe.

Shrimp is always a good choice for a quick meal.  Shrimp cooks quickly, just 2-3 per side, in a hot skillet.  The mango sauce has a great combination of flavors.  Sweet, spicy and perfect with the shrimp.  I served the sauce warm, but it would be good chilled also.  Here is the recipe from epicurious.

I served this meal with a few warmed corn tortillas, so Ben made shrimp tacos.  I liked it better without the tortillas, Ben liked his taco version better.  I think he likes when all the components of a meal come together in a nice little package.  He likes burritos, sandwiches, pizza, stromboli, lasagna, enchiladas, chimichangas and always seems to mix the food on his plate into a new casserole type dish.

This is a fairly quick recipe, and definitely a good choice for a weeknight dinner.


Korean BBQ with the Kims

While in Durango we ate out twice; once at a private restaurant on Electra Lake and then at a bar called Olde Schoolhouse Cafe.  I ate a tuna steak with a watermelon, blueberry and mint relish at Electra Lake and yummy vegetarian pizza at the Schoolhouse.

The other nights at the house we cooked.  My sister Lisa and her husband Randy offered to make Bulgogi one night.  We were all pretty excited about the menu and that excitement only increased as they started cooking.  The combination of sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, soy, ginger and garlic were so incredible.  Along with the beef and chicken Bulgogi, we had white rice, kimchee, pot stickers and a salad of thinly sliced cucumbers, bean sprouts, and scallions with crispy fried scallions and rice wine sesame dressing.


kbbq8Bulgogi means “fire meat” in Korean because it is traditionally grilled over an open flame, but can be cooked in a pan.  Randy did the grilling.  Grilled meat always smells good, but the marinade on the chicken and beef made for an especially wonderful aroma wafting from the grill downstairs to the kitchen window.  I always find it funny how men seem to flock to a heated grill.  Once the first tray of meat went to the grill every man in the house grabbed a beer and headed outside to help supervise.  This attraction of men to a fire will always amaze me.

The meat is sliced thin and wrapped in large lettuce leaves usually spread with ssamjang, the jar of spicy red sauce you find in the Asian food aisle.  When we ate this meal, we also put rice in the lettuce leaf.  It was delicious.


Portabella Burgers and The Magic Dog

When the lodge was built here in 1983 they cleared quite a bit of the land and dug their own lovely lakes fed by a stream that flows through the property and creates a tranquil atmosphere.  If you walk toward the stream from the house you can walk over a bridge and find yourself in a little meadow with a gazebo lit with twinkle lights, a grill, and a couple picnic tables.  We had dinner out at this adorable gazebo this week.  We had hamburgers, hot dogs, portabella burgers, potato salad, skewered grilled mushrooms and roasted zucchini.  There are few things better than grilled food cooked over a real fire, not a gas grill.  There is a completely different flavor and smell to the food that is just not there when you cook with gas.

The burgers were delicious.  You just cannot go wrong with a juicy meat patty, melting cheese, ketchup, crisp lettuce, tomato and pickles on a toasted sesame seed bun.  This is close to perfection.

We also decided to grill some portabella mushrooms.  I made my portabella “burger” just as I would a regular burger, all the same toppings as my meaty burger.  I think I would trade the cheddar cheese in for swiss cheese next time.  I liked the veggies on it, but it would be tasty with just cheese.

FYI, try to buy portabellas that are ready to grill.  Scraping out the gills was quite possibly one of the nastiest tasks I have had to complete in the kitchen.  Sometimes it is OK to buy a food product that makes life easier…and less nasty.



Greek Spiced Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

These meatballs were the main dish for our little Greek night last week.  We ate them with warm pita and feta cheese, and they were delicious.  I made a few changes to the original recipe from Fine Cooking magazine, July 2009.  I used ground beef instead of lamb, I used bread crumbs from a loaf of french bread, and took a shortcut with the tomato sauce.  Instead of making my own sauce and doctoring it, as the magazine instructs, I just used a good quality 28 ounce can of chunky tomato sauce.  The meatballs were very tasty, and the sauce was delicious.  It was a little thick when I reheated it the next day, so I added a little water and it was perfect.



Bacon, Mushroom and Spinach Breakfast Strata

Breakfast is always a bowl of cereal for Ben.  Not only that, he uses the same bowl and sits in the same spot to eat it every morning.  I love that about him.  I usually eat some fruit and yogurt.  Sometimes I make banana bread and we’ll eat that for a few days, and if we’re really getting crazy, scrambled eggs.  Needless to say, breakfast is not too thrilling around here.

When company comes I tend to get a little excited about breakfast.  This breakfast strata is very adaptable to anyone’s personal taste.  I used bacon, mushrooms, spinach, and a combination of swiss and cheddar cheese.  Ham would be delicious, or spicy breakfast sausage…mmmm.  It would even be great with just vegetables.


There are easier overnight breakfast casseroles.  I made one once that used a box of croutons instead of fresh bread and I’ve seen recipes that use frozen hash browns.  I liked that this one was completely from scratch.  It didn’t take too long to put it together on Friday night.  The hard part was getting out of bed early to pre-heat the oven and bake it for an hour and a half.  But it was worth it.


Roast Beef Empanadas

A few weeks ago Ben and I went to visit our friends Jason and Carrie in Decatur.  Along with having a fun weekend catching up and enjoying our time together we ate some incredible food.  Carrie made us empanadas with a chicken, black bean and corn filling.  They were crazy good.  The empanada dough is from Smitten Kitchen, but the filling was her own creation.  I envy her ability and confidence in creating recipes without a recipe.  Someday I will be able to break free from recipes and spread my culinary wings…

The chicken filling was good, but Carrie mentioned trying a different filling of roast beef at some point.  On her way to Albuquerque this week, Carrie made a pit stop here and spent a few days with us.  We tried these roast beef empanadas with lovely results.  The flavors are quite different from a traditional empanada.  It reminded me of a cheese-steak, only wrapped in pastry instead of a soft bread roll.  Are you drooling?  I am.



4th of July Feast

It was a lovely 4th for us here in Amarillo!  It was cool enough last night to be outside for dinner and not be sweating like a pig.  After dinner we went to a park a few blocks from the house and played bocce ball.  My glowing friend Jackie (9 months pregnant, due any day now) beat everyone.  I miss a lot of things about central Texas, but I love the weather up here.

Originally my thought was to have burgers, potato salad, etc., your typical American 4th of July meal.  We weren’t sure how many people were going to show up to our little shindig, and I didn’t want to have a bunch of leftover hamburgers.  So, I decided to make pulled pork sandwiches.  We also had potato salad, cole slaw, fruit salad and patriotic sugar cookies.



Asparagus and Chicken Pasta with Goat Cheese and Lemon

I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen the day she posted it, and I immediately printed it.  Since then it has been sitting in my cookbook holder…teasing me with its inevitable deliciousness; making me wonder and dream about how all those yummy ingredients would someday combine in my kitchen to create a clean and delightful pasta dish perfect for summer.  I finally got around to trying it last night.  It was tangy, light and wonderful.  “Light” is not a word often used to describe pasta dishes, but this was not too heavy on the sauce and the flavors are mild and refreshing.  It is also very good at room temperature or just slightly warm.

I added some shredded chicken to this pasta, so I should have increased the sauce a bit.  Also, be careful with the lemon juice.  Add just a bit at a time and taste it to make sure it isn’t too overpowering.  It is a must that you use the creamy style goat cheese and fresh tarragon.  Fresh herbs always make a dish better. (more…)

Grilled Apricot-Balsamic Glazed Chicken

First, I must brag on myself and tell you that I butchered my first chicken this weekend!  That’s right.  I bought 2 whole chickens, removed the complimentary neck, gizzards and liver, then began removing the appendages of the little birds and breaking the breast bone and back.  I can see why people prefer to buy the pieces pre-cut.  However, I was pleased to get a total of 4 breast halves, 4 wings, and 4 legs for a grand total of $7.00!  It is more work, but you get more for your money AND you get a little anatomy lesson.  You get to see all the joints and tendons and how they’re connected.  I enjoyed it, but Ben chose to stay out of the kitchen.  Here’s a video I found after I’d cut up my chickens.  I got my instructions from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.


My chicken pieces could almost pass for pre-packaged chicken pieces, so I will consider this a successful first time at chicken butchering.

These lovely chicken pieces were used to make a delicious grilled chicken recipe from the July 2008 Fine Cooking.  The glaze smells so wonderful as its cooking.  I used fresh rosemary right from the back yard and its flavor along with the sweet apricot preserves, spicy red pepper and tangy vinegar made a tasty glaze for the chicken.  The amount of glaze is perfect for the 12 pieces of chicken I used, but making a batch and a half would not be a bad idea.

You can make the glaze a day ahead, cover and refrigerate it.  Just be sure to warm it up again before you plan to glaze the chicken so that it will be easy to spread. (more…)

Daring Bakers: Spinach and Feta Strudel

I didn’t pay close attention to the date of posting for this May challenge.  I just figured it would be at the end of May, like the 30th or 31st.  I did make this strudel on the 26th and planned to post on the 30th.  The posting date was actually the 26th!  Why am I posting on June 1st?  Almost a week late?  Because I’m a bad Daring Baker, that’s why.  Better late than never, right?

Please excuse my pictures.  My camera was destroyed in a flood.  By flood I mean that a water bottle leaked in my purse creating a nice pool of water in the bottom of my purse where my camera was located.  It was a bad day.  So, iphone pictures will have to do until a new camera can be purchased.  I won’t hold my breath…