10 Must-Try Dinners You've Probably Never Had

Updated on February 25, 2020
Britt Bogan profile image

I love making tasty recipes and I enjoy sharing them with others.

What's for Dinner?

Making decisions can be a pretty difficult task for me, and dinner is one of the hardest decisions I have to make all day! Maybe you're like me, and you have a bit of trouble trying to figure out exactly what to eat for dinner tonight. If you're having some trouble deciding, I'm here to help. Below, you'll find 10 of my favorite fall-back dinners. They range from spicy to savory, from quick to time-consuming, and from big portions to small.

Please note that most of the ingredients lists and some of the instructions have been updated for the way that I prefer to make these dishes. If you'd like to see the original recipe, I note where each recipe is from and either provide a link in the recipe's description or a link to the website at the bottom of this page. I highly recommend you check out some of these websites anyway because you'll likely find a whole new recipe resource for yourself! Your next favorite dish might just be a click away.

How Intense Is It to Make?
Feeds How Many?
1) Cajun Pork With Tangy Pineapple Glaze
3-5 (Easy to double for more people)
2) Honey Lemon Ginger Chicken
2 people
3) Garlic and Sausage Spaghetti Squash
3-5 people
4) Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken
Ridiculously Easy
5-7 (Really easy to adjust bigger or smaller)
5) Mango Avocado Salad
Ridiculously Easy
3-4 people
6) Minestrone
5-9 people
7) Jalapeno Lime Enchiladas
about 7 people
8) Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta Soup
about 7 people
9) Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken
3-4 people
10) Balsamic and Soy Mushrooms
Ridiculously Easy
1-2 people (could easily make recipe bigger)

One Cajun Spice Option

Pre-made mixes can be hard to find at the store. Though it requires some forethought, I recommend buying your spice mix online.
Pre-made mixes can be hard to find at the store. Though it requires some forethought, I recommend buying your spice mix online.

1) Cajun Pork With Tangy Pineapple Glaze

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good for Crowds: Yes
  • Spice Level: Moderate (can be adjusted easily, especially if you make your own Cajun rub)
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Yep! (This tends to be better the second day because the spices have had a change to really sink into the pineapple.)
  • Freezes Well: The sauce does.

Jen over at Carlsbad Cravings is one of my culinary heroes, and several of her recipes are going to appear in this list because she's that amazing. I am a glutton for spicy things. But I have some pretty strong opinions about what "spicy" should mean. For me, the perfect amount of spice is something that enhances other flavors and makes you sweat a bit; it does NOT seek to make the dish inedible or try to be hellishly spicy to be hellishly spicy. I'm also the kind of person who loves to double or triple the required amount of sauce because I like things SLATHERED in sauce! This recipe perfectly blends subtle Cajun heat with savory, juicy pork and sweet pineapple.

What I Changed:

  • Cajun Rub: Sometimes I make my own; sometimes I use a spice mix. Legion of Spice is pretty darn good. Avoid spice mixes where the first ingredient is salt or that have ingredients that you can't pronounce. My favorite is Legion of Spice's Black Bayou, which you can find on Amazon for about 10$.
  • Double the Sauce: I ALWAYS double the sauce in this because it's great on so many other things, and I prefer more sauce to less.
  • Make It a Salad: I really enjoy this over uncooked spinach or by itself. It would also be tasty over rice.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Pork Brine

  • 2 (14- to 16-ounce each) pork tenderloins trimmed of excess fat
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Cajun Rub

  • 1 tsp of salt, garlic powder, chili powder, ground cumin, brown sugar each
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper, onion powder, dried thyme, smoked paprika each

Tangy Pineapple Glaze

  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (not breakfast imitation syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon French/yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar (2 for "tangier")
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon reserved Cajun rub spices from above
  • Add later:
  • 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice


  1. Dissolve salt in a large glass bowl that the pork loin will fit in. Add the remaining brine ingredients and the pork after the salt is dissolved. Brine for exactly 20 minutes, and then remove pork from brine and pat dry. If you brine the pork for longer than this, it'll likely get mealy.
  2. While the pork is brining, whisk together the Cajun rub spices in a small bowl. You can also use a pre-made mix. See comment above in "What I Changed." Remove 1 teaspoon for the glaze. Whisk together remaining rub spices with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover the pork with this wet rub. Set meat aside.
  3. Whisk together all of the tangy pineapple glaze ingredients EXCEPT for crushed pineapple. Remove 1/4 cup glaze for basting and set aside (“basting glaze”). Add the remaining Glaze to a small saucepan along with crushed pineapple (“pineapple glaze”). Set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is crackling hot, toss the meat in. Sear each side until browned. This should take 1-2 minutes per side. After it's browned, put the tenderloin in the oven in a shallow, tin-foil-lined roasting pan, and drizzle half of the basting glaze over it.
  6. Roast at 425F degrees F, for approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Drizzle the rest of the basting glaze on the pork after it's been cooking for about 15 min. This pork should be juicy and slightly pink in the middle. Let the cooked meat stand for about 10 minutes before cutting it.
  7. While the meat is cooling, heat the pineapple glaze until warm.
  8. Serve the dish by filling a bowl with spinach, topping it with meat, and pouring your desired amount of sauce over the meat. You can also do this over rice, or you can eat the meat by itself!

2) Sticky, Crispy Honey Lemon Ginger Chicken

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Good for Crowds: Not really (this is a better two-person dinner)
  • Spice Level: None
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Yep!
  • Freezes Well: Unsure. This recipe is so delicious that it's never around long enough to get frozen; it gets gobbled up too quickly.

This is another recipe that comes from Jen over at Carlsbad Cravings. I LOSE IT when my partner asks if I want this for dinner. The answer is always an enthusiastic, exuberant "yes." Yes, I need this in my life. It's sooooo good. The one thing you do want to watch out for here is the honey. It requires a lot of it, and it may be too sweet for some. You can counteract this by not using all of the honey that it calls for.

What I Changed:

  • Watch Out for the Honey: We double the sauce recipe, but only use 1/2 cup or less of the honey. It's just too sweet with a whole cup. We also use a bit more lemon juice. We also just pour the sauce over the chicken once it's in the bowl. That way the sauce soaks into your rice!


  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts pounded thin, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil (may sub. olive oil)

Chicken Breading

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tsp each of onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper

Honey Lemon Ginger Sauce

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch


  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Grease the baking sheet so that the chicken doesn't stick to the foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons water. Mix the breading ingredients in large freezer bag. Dunk the chicken pieces in the egg and water mixture, let the excess drip off, and then put the chicken in the flour mixture. Once all the chicken is in the bag, shake until evenly coated. Evenly space the meat on the sheet and lightly spray the chicken with cooking spray.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then move baking sheet 8-10 inches away from broiler and broil to desired crispiness (approximately 3-5 minutes). For extra crispiness, flip chicken over and broil the other side of chicken to desired crispiness, but be careful not to burn chicken.
  4. While the chicken is baking, heat 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds, Add the remaining honey lemon ginger sauce ingredients, and whisk to combine. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens (about 2 minutes). Add hot sauce as desired. We make it without the hot sauce entirely.
  5. Put your chicken in a bowl over rice (or however you'd like to eat it), and drizzle the sauce over it.

3) Brother's Garlic Spaghetti Squash, Sausage, and Parmesan

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good for Crowds: A small 3-5 person gather would be optimum
  • Spice Level: None
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Sort of (The onions tend to turn a really unappealing green/grey color within hours. This can be off-putting to some. It tastes the same, but looks a little odd.)
  • Freezes Well: Nope. This is a one-night (maybe one day of leftovers) kind of meal.

For quite some time, my brother followed the Paleo diet—except he just couldn't quit cheese. This is one of my favorite winter/fall recipes because it's quick, easy, delicious, and relatively cheap. The hardest part of this recipe is cooking your spaghetti squash just right.


  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 package of sausage (I prefer spicy Italian, but any you like works)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic (fresh, if possible)
  • Shaved Parmesan to taste
  • Hot sauce to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375*.
  2. In the meantime, cut the squash in half, rubbing the whole thing down with olive oil. Place the squash facedown in a glass, tin-foil-lined pan. Cook for about 45 min, or until it's easy to stick a fork through the top of the facedown squash. I almost always end up needing to cook it longer than 45 min, but you'll want to start checking it right around that mark.
  3. While your squash is cooking, cut up your sausage and your onion. Mince or chop your garlic. Do not cook them yet.
  4. Once squash is done, remove from heat. Allow it to cool. While it's cooling, sauté your garlic in olive oil. After about one minute (your garlic should be fragrant, but not burning), toss the onions in. Once the onions are just starting to become translucent around the edges, throw the sausage in and brown it.
  5. Toss everything in a bowl, and top with cheese and hot sauce as desired.

4) Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Chicken

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Chicken Ingredients and Instructions

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good for Crowds: YES! It can feed a sizable crowd (5-7 people) and is easily doubled
  • Spice Level: Moderate to High (You can adjust the spicy a fair amount by adding more brown sugar, using less chili powder, and using a really mild salsa; however, it's impossible to make this a "low spice" dish. You can just make it a bit "less spicy." So, this probably isn't a good choice for those who are really sensitive. Consequently, you can crank up the heat really easily for those who like a punch.)
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Yep!
  • Freezes Well: Yep!

I have made a lot of changes to Jen's slow cooker shredded Mexican chicken. I've also got to make a confession: I'm a bit of a Trader Joe's fanatic. What's that got to do with this recipe? I don't have exact measurements for some of the changes that I've made because I know it's one can of whatever ingredient from Trader Joe's. So, if you have access to a Trader Joe's and can get these ingredients, great! If not, your measurements might be a little different than mine, but this is a really forgiving recipe as far as making adjustments goes.

Ingredients (These are my Trader-Joes-ified ingredients.)

  • 2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of Trader Joe's medium salsa (the fresh one with the black top)
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar (I tend to use 3 or less because I like spicy)
  • 1 can TJ's diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 can of green Hatch chilis
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper (optional for more heat)
  • 1 teaspoons liquid smoke (This stuff is POTENT. One tsp is more than enough. I sometimes use a bit less.)
  • Hot sauce to taste (I tend not to add any. If I do, it's TJ's chili pepper sauce.)

Toppings/Other Necessities

  • TJ's Mexican blend cheese
  • TJ's chili and onion tortillas
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped red onion
  • Lime juice (this really accentuates the dish's flavor)
  • Cilantro


  1. Rub chicken in olive oil.
  2. Place chicken in slow cooker.
  3. Dump all of the ingredients in the slow cooker. I like to stir them up a bit and to make sure that the chicken is completely covered.
  4. Cook on high for 2-4 hours of on low for 6-7.
  5. After it's done, remove chicken, shred it, and then put it back in the slow cooker to cook on low for 20 minutes.
  6. You can either drain the excess liquid or not. I don't typically drain it, as it's an unnecessary hassle, I feel like. However, Jen recommends draining the liquid, and then saving it to put over rice.

5) Mango Avocado Salad With Shrimp or Fish

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good for Crowds: No. It gets too expensive.
  • Spice Level: None
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Yep!
  • Freezes Well: No

Ah, yes. A favorite recipe of mine. The original recipe is from Nom Nom Paleo, but the one I present to you has been modified quite a bit. The biggest change that we've made is that we use shrimp rather than salmon, and there's a surprisingly adorable story behind that.

My partner and I had just started dating. She wanted to come over, make me dinner, and generally pamper me. We were trying out a new way of cooking the salmon: pan-searing it. The instructions (not Nom Nom Paleo's) said that we should just leave the salmon upright and that it would cook evenly. This seemed a little odd, but we figured we'd be able to handle it.

The salmon... didn't quite turn out as expected. In fact, it completely transformed—into brick-like salmon pucks that could have been used as weapons. My poor partner was so distraught that date night had gone awry that she hid behind the couch and cried. So, we whipped out the shrimp to save the day!

You can definitely use this salsa as a salsa, over rice, or with pretty much any fish. We like to do this buffet-style because we prefer different proportions of things.


  • 2 cups diced ripe mango (about 2 mangos)
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup diced Hass avocado (1 medium avocado)
  • ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb of big, juicy shrimp (Trader Joe's Argentinian red shrimp are the most succulent shrimp I have ever had the privilege of sinking me teeth into. I recommend them whenever I can.)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • big pinch of kosher salt
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Spinach (or whatever leafy green you prefer)


  1. Dice mango, onion, avocados, and cilantro.
  2. Cook shrimp. Cut shrimp into small pieces.
  3. Line a bowl with spinach, place ingredients in the bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and enjoy!

6) Minestrone Soup

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Good for Crowds: Yes, large ones
  • Spice Level: None
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Yep!
  • Freezes Well: Yes

This recipe is huge. I mean "it gets split into two pots, and we're having leftover for weeks" huge. That means that it's a great fit for a huge party or for someone who wants leftovers forever. I'm a big fan of minestrone; it's one of the only soups I like. I'm not a big fan of broth, which I like to call "soup juice," so the heartier (read: more full of stuff), the better. Fortunately, if you like your soups runnier, just add more chicken stock to this! You can find the original recipe over on Food Network. And it's going to look different than the one I show you below, I guarantee it. I added a lot more filling to my version of the recipe because, again, I don't like the soup juice part; I like the chunky ingredients. Also, I want to reiterate, I make this recipe in a huge proportion. I recommend halving the recipe below for your first go.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 large carrots, diced
  • 1/3 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp dried basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Note: you can use a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes and a 14-ounce can of crushed if you like. I don't like tomatoes, so I switched them.)
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth (and you may need to add more as you cook to keep the soup from getting too dry)
  • 1 15-ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cup elbow pasta
  • 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds.
  4. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they begin to soften.
  5. Stir in the green beans, dried oregano, and basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook 3 more minutes.
  6. Add the diced and crushed tomatoes and the chicken broth to the pot, and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the kidney beans and pasta, and cook until the pasta and vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes.
  9. Season with salt.
  10. Ladle into bowls and top with the parmesan and chopped basil.

7) Jalapeno Lime Chicken Enchiladas

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Moderate to high
  • Good for Crowds: Yes, moderate ones (5-7 people), assuming they only want one enchilada
  • Spice Level: Medium to high
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Not really. The tortillas get soggy over night and aren't that appetizing. This is better to eat all in one go.
  • Freezes Well: Nope.

Yep! Another ringer from Jen. These jalapeno lime chicken enchiladas are damn good. The sauce is the real star of this dish. You don't quite expect the depth that you get from it, so you're totally wowed by the layers that it has. While this dish is alarmingly delicious, it doesn't make particularly good leftovers. The tortillas get soggy overnight and kind of ruin the mood. I didn't change too much of this recipe, so I'm going to list the one or two changes that I did make. If you'd like to make this dish, you can find the complete recipe over at Carlsbad Cravings.

What I Changed:

  • Use Low-Sodium Chicken Broth: I used low-sodium chicken broth.
  • Substitute Mexican Squash for Zucchini: This stuff can be a pain to find and isn't all the different from regular zucchini. You probably wouldn't notice the difference between the two. Save yourself some time and use zucchini, if you want to add it at all.
  • Use Sweet Baby Bell Peppers: I'm not a fan of these. I try to use sweet baby bell peppers, as I find them a bit more palatable.
  • Shred Your Own Cheese: While it may be tempting to buy pre-shredded cheese. Your sauces will be much smoother if you don't use the pre-shredded stuff. The already shredded stuff has something on it that helps it from sticking together, which means that it doesn't blend as well. Grating the cheese yourself means that it will want to stick together, which in turn means that you'll have a smoother sauce.


  • 1 pound chicken breasts pounded thin (2-3 breasts)
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 Mexican squash or zucchini, sliced or quartered
  • About a cup of corn
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8-10 flour tortillas

Jalapeno Lime Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 jalapenos, deveined, seeded, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 14 oz. can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp each of ground cumin, and garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt, chili powder, smoked paprika, and onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Garnishes (Optional)

  • Sour cream
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Cilantro
  • Freshly-squeezed lime
  • Hot sauce


  1. First, cook the chicken. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, cooking until golden brown on one side (about 3-5 min). Flip chicken and add 1 cup chicken broth. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer 10 minutes, then flip chicken over and continue to cook 5-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked though and tender enough to shred. Remove chicken from skillet and let rest 5 minutes before shredding (or dicing if preferred). Discard any extra broth from skillet (if there is any).
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter in olive oil over medium heat. Add jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and cook for 3 minutes (it should be thick). Reduce heat to low, and slowly whisk in can of chicken broth until smooth, then stir in the spices. Bring to a boil and simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and sour cream.
  3. In the same skillet you cooked your chicken, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add squash, corn, red bell pepper, and whatever else you wanted to add and saute for 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in shredded chicken, 3 tablespoons jalapeno lime sauce and 1 1/2 cups Monterey jack cheese.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spread 1/4 cup jalapeno lime sauce on the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish (the layer will be very thin). Add the enchilada filling to the center of each tortilla and roll them tightly, then line the dish with them. Top enchiladas with remaining jalapeno lime sauce and remaining cheeses.
  5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. You can broil until the cheese is golden and crispy, if you like. Top with desired garnishes.

8) Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta Soup

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Moderate to high
  • Good for Crowds: Yes
  • Spice Level: Medium
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Yes, it actually gets better overnight.
  • Freezes Well: Yes!

Jen's creamy cajun chicken pasta soup is a wonderfully versatile dish. It freezes well, makes amazing leftovers, feeds a ton of people, and is delicious hot or cold. This dish involves quite a bit of timing and chopping, so it's a lot easier to cook if you can enlist a second set of hands to help you out on this one.


  • 12 ounces or so of whatever pasta you like (I prefer elbow macaroni). You can also add more or less pasta depending on how soupy you like your dishes.
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (you can also throw shrimp in this, either with the chicken or instead of the chicken)
  • 3-4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (use less if you want it less spicy)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (optional, I'm not a mushroom fan, so I never ad these)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (I use sweet baby bell peppers)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (I use sweet baby bell peppers)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 32 oz. carton Cajun flavor-infused broth (This can be really hard to find. If you're having trouble finding this, you can use regular chicken stock and put 3-5 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning in it. You will want to let it marinate for a few hours before using it though.)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth (I tend to use low-sodium, and it tastes just fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream mixed with 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 1 10 oz. can tomatoes with green chilies, drained
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice plus more for garnish (The lime juice makes a HUGE difference. Don't forgo this.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil cut into thin strips
  • chopped bacon for garnish (optional)


  1. If you were able to find Cajun-infused chicken broth, skip this step. If you weren't able to find it, you can mix a carton of regular chicken stock with 5 or so tablespoons of the Cajun spices. Taste your stock to be sure that it tastes the way you want it to. Making your own Cajun stock is also a great idea if you'll be sharing this with someone who is sensitive to how spicy a dish is because you have more control over the spice level! Be sure to let this sit for a few hours so that the spices have time to really get into the stock.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil and Cajun spices. Add chicken and coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, if you have the time, as you prep the other ingredients. I've made this both ways, by letting the chicken refrigerate and by throwing it in immediately. It didn't seem to make too big of a difference.
  3. After 30 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until nicely browned on one side (typically 2-4 min). Turn chicken over, add 1/2 cup Cajun broth, cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 6-8 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before dicing into bite size pieces.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente in generously salted water. Rinse and set aside.
  5. Melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
  6. Gradually stir in remaining Cajun broth, chicken broth, and heavy cream. Bring soup to boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently until thickened to desired consistency, approximately 3-5 minutes.
  7. Return chopped chicken to the pot along with peas, tomatoes, and cooked pasta. Simmer until heated through then stir in Parmesan until melted followed by lime juice and basil.*
  8. Taste and add additional salt, pepper cayenne/hot sauce to taste.
  9. Garnish individual bowls with fresh lime juice and bacon (optional).

9) C. Perez's Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good for Crowds: Yes, but a smaller one maybe 3-5 people
  • Spice Level: Medium to High
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Yes, it actually gets better overnight.
  • Freezes Well: Yes!

I found this recipe a few years ago on Allrecipes, which you know can be a real hit or miss. While I do completely adore this recipe, it can be really easy to make it VERY spicy, like so spicy you can barely eat it. So when you first make this, error on the side of less spicy and go from there. This can be deceptive because it seems "not that spicy" on day one, but then on day two, it's a whole different story. This is a great dish for a taco night or to make for a few days' worth of lunch. While you can make these as just a slice of chicken, I prefer to shred mine and throw the stuff in burritos. It makes a great filling and lasts much longer that way. If you want this recipe to feed a larger number of people, make it for taco night (as opposed to eating the chicken by itself)!


  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 lb chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice


  1. In a small bowl, mix together salt, black pepper, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and cilantro. Toss the chicken in the bowl and make sure that its gets thrououghly covered in the spices.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute chicken until golden brown on both sides.
  3. When browned to your taste, let chicken cool. Then shred. Garnish with a spritz of lime juice.

This Is My Beloved (and Almost Empty) Balsamic


10) Balsamic Soy Roasted Garlic Mushrooms

Quick Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good for Crowds: No, better for a one-person meal or a two-person side dish
  • Spice Level: None
  • Makes Good Leftovers: Not sure. They didn't last that long.
  • Freezes Well: Probably not

Mushrooms are my sworn enemy. I don't mind the flavor, but they're bizarrely squishy and sometimes almost slimy, and I just can't. But you know what? If anything was going to convince me that I needed more mushrooms in my life and that they are, in fact, delicious, it's going to be these puppies right here. Kevin over at Closet Cooking hit it out of the park with this savory, succulent recipe. I ate like 8 mushrooms, which is saying A LOT. My partner gobbled up her portion and mine! Before you make this, I want to impress upon you how important it is to get a high-quality balsamic for this. A good balsamic should be viscous. I used one from Trader Joe's that they don't have anymore; otherwise, I'd recommend that to you.


  • 2 pounds crimini mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (as high-quality as you can afford)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari) (I prefer low sodium)
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. In the pan you plan to cook in, mix together the oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. And then toss the chopped mushrooms into the sauté pan, stirring them around to make sure that they're thrououghly coated in the sauce.
  2. Sauté mushrooms until the dish is fragrant and the mushrooms are at your desired firmness.

The original recipe calls for these to be oven-roasted. I sautéed them instead because, honestly, I forgot to read the directions until the mushrooms and sauce were already in the pan! I suspect they'll turn out great however you prefer to cook them.

Hungry for More?

  • Jen: You may have been thinking "Why is there so much of Jen in this article?" while reading this. I'll tell you why there's so much Jen in this article: SHE IS A CULINARY GODSEND. Period. She just understands my palette, and I don't think I've ever been disappointed by any of her recipes. Her recipes are really easy to customize to individual tastes, cover a wide variety of cuisines, and can be pretty easy to make. Her instructions are typicallyclear as well, which is wonderful. Difficult-to-understand directions can spell death for an otherwise flawless recipe. I highly encourage you to visit her over at Carlsbad Cravings and become a convert like me.
  • Michelle: Inspired by my brother's health kick, I got pretty into eating Paleo for a while. That's when I discovered Michelle at Nom Nom Paleo. She wrote the original mango and avocado salmon recipe that you saw earlier. She's got a ton of other great recipes, including a zucchini noodles (often called "zoodles") recipe. Her recipes focus on lots of veggies and proteins, while eliminating carbs (such as rice and bread) and processed foods.
  • Kevin: Kevin runs Closet Cooking, and that's where the life-changing balsamic mushroom recipe comes from. While I haven't tried any of his other recipes yet, I can only image that they're as mouthwateringly great as the mushroom dish. If you try something from here, report back and let mw know how it is!


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    • Britt Bogan profile imageAUTHOR

      Britt Bogan 

      2 years ago

      Yyyyeeessss. Thanks for trying this out and sharing your experience. I'm glad you liked it! And that's one of the things I like a lot about this recipe: it's really easy to modify to your tastes. Also, if you find yourself making this frequently, this recipe doubles and freezes well.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Hi Britt, I made the Mexican Shredded Chicken twice already and I loved it. I didn’t exactly follow all your directions though. I left out the chili pepper and smoked paprika. But I actually found the Liquid Smoke in my local store (Stop & Shop) and I used it the second time. Funny thing is, I could smell the smoke as soon as I opened the bottle. I like the added flavor it gave it.

    • Britt Bogan profile imageAUTHOR

      Britt Bogan 

      2 years ago


      Thanks for stopping by! How did the Mexican shredded chicken go?

      It's true! I love spicy food--spicy that adds heat, not spicy that overpowers an entire dish. TJ's doesn't have liquid smoke (but they do have a bunch of other stuff I'm fanatical about). I think I got mine at Whole Foods? That stuff is POTENT, so definitely use it sparingly.

      Hope everything goes well! :D

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I found your article very useful and I especially like the Mexican Shredded Chicken, which I’m going to try making this weekend.

      I can see you like things hot, Bret. As for me, I’ll go easy on it. But I’m curious to find out what the liquid smoke is all about. Never heard of that before. I have a Trader Joe’s near me.

      I’m also looking forward to making the Mango Avocado Salad. It adds a nice balance.


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