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Episode 125: Easy Family Dinners That Always Win

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picky eaters, Podcast, What to Eat

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There are easy dinners, and then there are EASY dinners. Meals you can shop for without a plan, or even a minute of forethought. Dinners you can cook with your eyes closed — or more like, while being a homework helper, dog caregiver, and human who still has at least 30 minutes more work to do. And when these meals are also ones that make everyone in your family happy, they become Magic Meals. Because all of it — getting dinner on the table, avoiding complaints, and actually enjoying every bite — feels like magic.

But it’s not: it’s you, with a little help from these recipes.

This post contains affiliate links, we may make a small percentage on products we recommend.


No Thinking, Yes Eating

Whatever you call them — magic meals, go-to’s, meals without tears, brainless crowdpleasers — we all have those back pocket dinners that are easy to make and always win with our families. And we all can use more of them. Because when a meal comes together in a snap, without any planning or fussing, AND everyone eats it happily, there can never be enough.

Here are the recipes mentioned in this week’s episode:

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Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas with Lime Crema

The only thing that makes me happier than fajitas is an easy cleanup meal. Bring the two together, like in this recipe, and I’m one happy cook. And that’s even without the lime crema, which I can eat by the spoonful.

This is one of those rare times when bottled lime juice — with nothing added — is better than freshly squeezed. The reliable acidity level of bottled juice gives the sour cream an intensity that I love for this dish.

If you can’t find bottled or prefer not to use it, you’ll need one really juicy lime to get 2 tablespoons of juice — and more if the limes at your market are rock hard, which they tend to be many months of the year.

If freshly squeezed juice isn’t giving you the punch of flavor that you want, don’t add more juice, which will just thin the sour cream. Add lime zest instead.

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas with Lime Crema

From Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner: 50 Winning Ways to Cook It Up! cookbook

Serves 4

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 bell peppers, cut into 1-inch-thick strips (I like using 1 red, 1 green, and 1 yellow or orange pepper)

1 large red onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ½-inch-thick wedges

3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1½- to 2-inch-thick strips

Warmed tortillas, for serving

Fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)

Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

For the Lime Crema

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons lime juice (see recipe intro)

¼ teaspoon salt

1. Make the chicken: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). In the meantime, combine the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and cumin in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Combine the bell peppers, onion, and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large bowl, along with about half of the spice mixture (about 3 tablespoons, though it’s okay to estimate here). Toss to coat well and transfer the vegetables to a sheet pan.

3. Add the chicken strips to the same large bowl along with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining spice mixture. Toss to coat well and transfer the chicken to the sheet pan, arranging everything in a single layer as much as possible.

4. Place the sheet pan in the oven and cook for about 12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables just begin to brown in spots. Turn the broiler to low and transfer the pan to the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes, until everything browns in spots. If you prefer your veggies charred in spots, turn the broiler to high instead and cook for no more than 5 minutes, watching carefully to ensure that nothing burns too quickly and that the chicken doesn’t overcook.

5. Make the lime crema: While the chicken is cooking, mix together the sour cream, lime juice, and salt in a medium serving bowl. Adjust the seasoning to taste; if using fresh lime juice, see the recipe introduction about adding lime zest.

Serve the chicken and veggies with lime crema, warmed tortillas, fresh cilantro, and hot sauce, if desired

Photo Credit: Dominic Perri


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