6 Fun Dinners The Whole Family Will Love (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

Weeknight dinners can feel like a drag sometimes. When you’re tired from your day, why spend time in the kitchen cooking up the same old thing week after week, when you can just pick up the phone and order a pizza?

There’s certainly no denying that some nights call for a big, greasy box of pepperoni and mushroom, but don’t let the weeknight drudge get you down!

From beefy baked noodles to bright green chicken and even a fluffy tamale pie, here are a few easy, fun recipes you can add to your weekly rotation that are sure to become instant favorites for the whole family:

1. Beef and Cheddar Casserole

With hearty, filling ground beef, gooey cheese and chewy, wide egg noodles, this crowd-pleasing dish is a far cry from anything bland and mushy that you might associate with the word.

2. Spinach, White Bean, and Taleggio Pizza

Making your own pizza crust on a busy weeknight can be a fair bit of work. Feel free to take a shortcut by either buying your favorite pre-made stuff or making it in advance, portioning it out and chucking it in the freezer. If you need to thaw frozen dough in a hurry, you can float a sealed bag of it in cold water for around 15 minutes.

3. Grilled Green Chicken

A few handfuls of fresh, zingy green herbs, bright lime zest and some other aromatics all get zapped in the blender for a quick, low-maintenance marinade that brings the flavor in a major way. You can totally make a double batch of this and toss extra marinated raw chicken in the freezer until you need another fast entree.

4. Baked Black Bean and Avocado Burritos

These versatile wet burrito-enchilada hybrids cook up in a flash, and they’re easy to customize to be vegan, omnivorous, gluten-free or fit just about any other dietary requirement. Want a paleo, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free tortilla alternative? Try using these plantain tortillas.

5. Salmon Cakes With Salad

Crab cakes are great, but they aren’t always easy to come by. Canned (or leftover, cooked) salmon mixed with Old Bay, corn, red peppers and lemon zest make for a fabulous and much cheaper alternative that won’t leave you longing for pricier crab meat.

6. Chicken Tamale Pie

If you love shepherd’s pie and tamales, this is the meal for you! With canned beans, sharp cheddar cheese, your favorite salsa and cooked chicken (or any leftover protein of your choice), this filling dish puts a fun new spin on your favorite flavors. P.S. You’re more than welcome to use instant polenta rather than cornmeal to save a couple minutes of kitchen time.

Featured Image: William Beutler/Flickr

Tags: chicken tamale pie, easy recipes, fun dinners, kid friendly dinner, weeknight dinner recipes
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5 Exciting Fall Salads That You’ll Actually Crave (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

Salads are great.

If you do them right, salads should strike that magical balance between nutritious and tasty, because nobody likes one that’s just pure leaves.

It can be tough if you’re coming out of your summer salad groove and feel a little tired of your usual, now that the leaves are changing and the crisp fall air has rolled in. But verily I say unto thee: Don’t even worry about the dreaded salad slump.

There are a ton of gloriously filling, positively sinful tasting salads out there that are jam-packed with the seasonal ingredients that you’re probably craving this time of year. And most importantly, they are full of contrasting flavors and textures that make them positively exciting.

1. Kale, Apple, Pecorino Salad With Crispy Prosciutto And Balsamic Drizzle

Meat and cheese can make any salad feel hearty. With salty cheese, crispy cured prosciutto, bright citrus and a dash of fall fruit, you’ll love this exciting kale salad. P.S. You can save a little time by microwaving the prosciutto instead of baking it for a similar effect.

2. Autumn Pearl Couscous Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Salad absolutely does not need to be green-centric. This grain and roasted veggie mix is a great option for when you are burnt out on eating leaves but want a veggie-heavy entree or side.

3. Easy Almond Apple Quinoa Salad

Another healthy grain-centric dish that’s full of fun, contrasting textures. This protein-packed mix works well for anyone who thinks they can’t stomach another dang salad. Prove them wrong!

4. Gorgonzola Pear Chicken Salad

I’d eat just about anything if it had fried chicken on top of it. So when you pound the meat thin, bread it and gently pan-fry it in a couple of tablespoons of oil, you’re automatically going to have my attention. Toss it with a light dressing, zingy arugula, bold blue cheese and fresh pears, and you can convert salad haters to the leafy side.

5. Fall Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad

There’s something about shredded brussels sprouts that makes them absolutely delectable. They make for a perfect slaw-type base that holds up to dressing way better than lettuce, especially if they’re going to be sitting out for a few minutes before being served. With fried shallots (french-fried onions are OK if you’re in a rush), salty gorgonzola cheese, rich pecans and sweet dried cranberries, this salad sure is hard to get tired of.

Featured Image: Pixabay

Tags: autumn dinner, fall recipes, fall salads, salad recipes, weeknight dinner recipes
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These 7 Pasta Dishes Are As Easy As They Are Delicious (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

After gazing into our crystal ball, we predict that you’re short on time this week.

If you don’t know how you’re supposed to have enough time to make it through your weeknights while actually eating, why not cook a few simple pasta dishes? Noodles are cheap and filling, and depending on how many mouths you are feeding, you might even have a ton of leftovers to give you another lunch and/or dinner.

Want to make things a little healthier? Pick up your favorite nutrient-rich wheat noodles and cut them with an equal amount of prepared zoodles (here’s how to make them) for a super easy way to keep it healthy while feeling like you’re indulging.

All of these recipes pretty much cook up in the amount of time it takes you to prepare your noodles anyway, so they’ll be ready to eat in a flash.

1. Vegan Tomato Basil Cream Pasta

Not vegan? No problem. Swap out the cashew cream for dairy if you want — half and half, cream cheese (you might need to add in a bit of pasta water to thin it out) or even yogurt would be great dairy substitutions.

2. Shrimp Scampi

How much easier does it get than this? If you have an extra minute or two, you can even toss in some healthy additions like chopped and sauteed zucchini or asparagus, frozen peas and/or capers.

3. One-Pan Enchilada Pasta

Yes, we said one pan. All you do is cook all your ingredients, dump in your can of sauce and simmer your noodles in it until they are tender. It’s a little different, and it’s way easier than rolling tortillas for actual enchiladas.

4. Butternut Squash, Browned Butter, and Rosemary Fettucini

For a healthier take on creamy pasta like Fettuccine Alfredo, puree some cooked butternut squash (buy it chopped and roast it ahead of time if you want to prep) and enjoy the rich, savory flavors. Pro-tip: This is absolutely amazing with a small drizzle of balsamic vinegar to really bring out the flavors. Don’t have rosemary? Use sage instead. Either is delicious!

5. Ten-Minute Spaghetti Sauce

All you have to do is quickly simmer canned tomatoes and a few other ingredients for a sauce that is incredible and fresh — so much better than sauce from a jar, and it’s only a tiny bit more effort.

6. Zucchini and Lemon Spaghetti

Healthy, vegetarian and packed with spring flavors, thanks to the seasonal squash and bright lemon zest that pair so perfectly with crumbled feta cheese.

7. Cacio E Pepe

With just four toppings (and one of them is salt!), this is the easiest and tastiest pasta you’ll ever make without using canned sauce!

Featured Photo Credit: Elizabeth/Bowl of Delicious

Tags: easy dinner recipes, easy pasta, pasta recipe, spring dinners, weeknight dinner recipes
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8 Amazing Ways To Cook With Whiskey (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

March 27 is International Whisk(e)y Day! From bourbon to scotch and everything in between, it is the perfect day to cook with the stuff and add a little richness and complexity to your meals.

What’s the difference between whiskey and whisky, anyway?

You might find people in some circles discussing and debating this issue at length, but the very basic answer is this, simply: In Scotland, it’s spelled “whisky,” while the Irish and Americans spell it with the extra “e.” In terms of flavor … well … that’s the fun part, and we’ll let you figure that out for yourself. Here’s a little more information on the subject.

Whatever variety of whisk(e)y you prefer, we highly recommend that you join us in celebrating this lovely occasion by cooking dinner with your favorite spirit. Here are some of our favorite ways to use booze to up the intensity of your meal:

1. Pumpkin Pancakes with Bourbon Vanilla Maple Syrup

Breakfast for dinner? We think so! That pumpkin puree will make all the difference in your pancakes, giving them a slight savory-sweet dinner appeal while adding a little extra insurance against dryness. And don’t even get us started on that heavenly syrup …

2. Peach Whisky Chicken

If you love barbecue chicken, consider taking the sweet, smoky, oniony flavors to the next level with this surprisingly not-too-difficult sauce. You can use pretty much any whisk(e)y you want — a nice bourbon would be delightful — but if you love smoky barbecue sauce, we recommend using a peaty scotch.

3. Jameson Whiskey Blue Cheese Burger with Guinness Cheese Sauce + Crispy Onions

If a sweet-savory whiskey glaze, pungent blue cheese, crunchy fried onions and rich, gooey beer cheese is somehow not enough to sell you on this, we’re totally fine with that. More for us!

4. Jack Daniel’s Bacon Mac and Cheese

We know, we know. We also thought it wasn’t possible to improve on classic mac and cheese. But we were wrong, and you’ll thank us for bringing this to your attention.

5. Chocolate Whiskey Bacon Chili

If you’ve never put dark chocolate or cocoa powder in your beef chili, you’ll be amazed at the subtle yet deeply complex flavors that it brings. Now dump in a few tablespoons of whiskey (you can do this just after you cook your onion if you want to cook all the booziness out), and we’re in business.

6. Slow Cooker Mississippi Ribs

Ribs are great, but they can be a real pain if you don’t have anywhere to grill or smoke them. Enter the slow cooker! Impossibly simple process, fall-off-the-bone results.

7. Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Whiskey Cream Sauce

We admit, gnocchi takes a fair bit of time to prepare, but you’re more than welcome to make it ahead of time and freeze. (Freeze them raw in a single layer on a baking sheet and then transfer to a Ziploc bag once they are frozen solid. Defrost before boiling.) The cool thing about this recipe is that butternut squash is WAY less finicky than regular potatoes, so you don’t have to worry as much about the usual gnocchi fine line between falling apart and glue.

8. Salted Caramel and Whiskey Truffles

Don’t forget about dessert! Boozy truffles are life.

Featured Photo Credit: Half Baked Harvest

Tags: cooking with whiskey, International Whisky Day, weeknight dinner recipes, Whiskey Day, whiskey or whisky
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