_____… it’s what’s for dinner. (an inaugural Metroblogging winter recipe challenge).

It’s that time of the year where our household is plagued by perhaps the worst of the seasonal doldrums… we like to call it, What’s For Dinner?

What’s For Dinner usually involves something cheap (Emergency Chicken Breasts, ground beef) and easy (we can cook it in less than 90 minutes), that isn’t exotic (because who can get rhubarb this time of year, unless you’ve frozen a batch from last spring?) and that my 4-year-old will feign interest in.

I’m guessing that since we all live here in this fine state, I’m not the only one who looks at the cupboards in January/February and thinks, I wonder what they are eating on the Baja peninsula right now?

So I propose a challenge, starting next week. We shall call it the Metroblogging Minneapolis What’s For Dinner Challenge.

Interested? Think you have a recipe that could shake the Tator Tot Hotdish blues? Read on.

* Recipes must be something you have made before – something you’d really recommend. Don’t just cut and paste something you found on epicurious because it sounds good.
* Meals must have an active cooking time of 1 1/2 hrs or less (Crock pot meals work, because they don’t require you to be there monitoring the cooking)
* Submissions must be made with in-season items (I.E. no asparagus, no raspberries… you get the idea.)
* Skip the exotic ingredients (it’s dinner on a Tueday night, folks. It should be stuff that you would be able to afford and keep in your fridgee on a weekly/monthly basis… so Foie Gras is out (sorry), but cheaper cuts of meat are in!)
* Recipes with next-day office kitchen viability get extra points (who doesn’t love lunchtime leftovers?)
* This is about keeping the palate and mind fresh and interested during what I find to be the most lamentable month of our year here. Creativity, interest, and freshness all win, in my book.

Submit your recipes via comments. I’ll make as many of the recipes as I can during February — review them — and encourage readers to do the same. At the end of the month, we can vote on the best of. Sound like fun? At least sound like a way to add some interest to your winter?

9 Comments so far

  1. Aliecat (unregistered) on January 30th, 2008 @ 8:31 am

    Yay! I’ve got a main dish and a side for you:

    Balsamic Mushroom chicken breasts:
    Cook 2-4 boneless chicken breasts in a pan with a little oil or butter (set aside and keep warm)
    In the same pan, sautee 8 oz of sliced mushrooms and 1/3c. finely diced red onion or shallot until golden. Add 1/2 c. chicken broth, 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 sliced cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp dried thyme and salt and pepper. Simmer 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in a Tbsp butter. I rewarm the chicken in the sauce for a little bit to coat the chicken breasts and serve.

    Garlic Green Beans:
    Take 1 package of pre-cleaned green beans and cook for 2-5 minutes in boiling, salted water. Remove from water and blanche in ice water. Add a couple Tbsp of olive oil (you may need to add more depending on the amount of green beans) to a skillet over medium heat. To the hot oil add a couple cloves of minced garlic and a couple tsp of crushed red pepper (optional). Add beans and cook only long enough to heat through. Serve with the chicken dish, some crusty bread and a salad.

  2. Aliecat (unregistered) on January 30th, 2008 @ 8:34 am

    I should add that if you don’t want to go through the trouble of blanching the beans, boil them for about 4 minutes and rinse them really well under cold water in a collander to stop the cooking process.

  3. Sarah Green (unregistered) on January 30th, 2008 @ 9:26 am

    Mmm. I totally took out chicken breasts for dinner tonight. I’ll have to swing by the store en route home and grab mushrooms and shallots. I think I have everything else.


  4. Idris_Arslanian (unregistered) on January 30th, 2008 @ 9:52 am

    If you tossed the chicken breasts with a little flour before putting them in the pan, it would serve to thicken the sauce up a bit when the saucy items are added. Kind of like a quick Coq au vin. I like it!

  5. Aliecat (unregistered) on January 30th, 2008 @ 10:35 am

    I’ve only tried the chicken recipie once, so I hope it works as well for you as it did for me! The sauce is enough for 4 chicken breasts, but I made it with 2 and just halved everything. Worked out nicely.

  6. Erica M (unregistered) on January 30th, 2008 @ 10:48 am

    We had empanadas (maybe more like "empanadas") the other day (and again last night, and will again tomorrow). I wasn’t primarily responsible for making them, but it seemed to go by pretty fast. I gotta get the recipe from home.

  7. Tipper (unregistered) on January 31st, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    The only exotic ingredient is this is curry paste, which can be found in pretty much any Cub Foods store. It’s one of those highly customizable recipes, too, so you can tailor it to your particular tastes. This makes a HUGE amount, so there’s plenty of leftovers. You can even stick some in the freezer.

    Curry a la White American Girl

    1 large potato, peeled and cubed
    Skinless chicken thighs or breasts, any quantity (thighs are actually tastier in this recipe, and this is a good way to stretch a small amount of meat) (optional)
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 T. vegetable oil
    2 T. of Patak’s mild curry paste with cumin (to taste)
    1 can diced tomatoes, or 1-2 chopped fresh tomatoes
    16 oz. bag of mixed frozen vegetables
    1/2 head cauliflower, in bite-sized pieces
    1 (12 oz.?) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
    1 can coconut milk (light or regular)
    Cooked rice (I prefer brown)

    1. Parboil your potato; no need to make it mushy, but give it a head start. This will take about five minutes. Drain and set aside.
    2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a tightly fitting lid. Add the onion and fry until it begins to brown. If using chicken, you’ll cook it at this point until it’s nearly done. Add the curry paste and cook while stirring for a minute.
    3. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the coconut milk and rice. Cover tightly and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are well cooked. (No fresh crispness here!) Add a small amount of water if it looks too dry.
    4. Stir in the coconut milk and heat.
    5. Serve over rice.

  8. Erica M (unregistered) on January 31st, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

    Here we go: "Meaty" Empanadas

    1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
    6 oz. Tex-Mex seasoned soy "ground meat"
    1 tsp. ground cumin
    1/2 tsp. chili powder, or to taste
    1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
    3 Tbs. salsa plus extra for garnish
    2 Tbs. snipped cilantro
    1/4 cup raisins
    1 pkg. jumbo buttermilk refrigerator biscuits

    1. Preheat oven to 425. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
    2. Heat skilet, and spray with cooking spray. Saute scallions and "ground meat" 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon into mixing bowl, and stir in cumin, chili powder, cheese, 3 Tbs. salsa, cilantro and raisins. Scoop out 8 equal-sized portions, about 1/4 cup each, and set aside.
    3. Dust work surface with flour, and roll out each biscuit to about a 6-inch round. Spoon portion filling onto half of biscuit, fold over other half and pinch edges to seal shut, using water if needed. Put onto baking sheet. Repeat.
    4. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Romove from oven, garnish with salsa and serve hot.


    Of course add whatever spices you want. We threw in some garlic powder.

    You can make it as healthy or unhealthy as you want, so you can use actual ground beef or ground turkey instead of the soy stuff. You can obviously use full-fat cheese. We had sour cream and guac on the side. I guess the biscuits are kind of high in sodium, too.

    They reheat way better in the toaster oven than the microwave, so consider that when taking leftovers to work. My workplace happens to have a toaster oven, yay!

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the portioning part. Just go with whatever the biscuit accommodates. We had a biscuit rolling/stuff/folding assembly line going.

    All that should take about 30 minutes.

  9. Emily M (unregistered) on February 1st, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

    Garlic Chicken Pizza

    1/2 c. sliced green onions, divided
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 Tbsp. white vinegar
    2 Tbsp. soy sauce
    1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
    1/2 tsp. crushed red peper
    1/4 tsp. black pepper
    3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
    1 Tbsp. cornstarch
    1 Italian bread shell(12 inches) – I use Boboli brand
    1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
    1/2 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese

    In a large bowl, combine 1/4 c. of the green onions with garlic and next 5 ingredients. Add chicken, stirring to coat. Let stand 30min, then drain, reserving marinade. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil and add chicken. Cook 3 min. or until done, stirring constantly. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and reserved marinade; stir well. Add to chicken; cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Spoon over bread shell. Top with cheeses and bake 12 min. Remove from oven; top with remaining green onions and 2 Tbsp. pine nuts or sliced almonds and bake 2 minutes more. Yield: 4 servings

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