6 Clever Dinner Recipes Using Your Favorite Snack Foods

It seems like the snacks we eat between meals are often the most delicious foods we taste all day. Sadly, you can’t make an entire meal out of them. Well you could, but that’s probably not a good idea for your waistline or your wallet.

We have a solution to your tired dinner routine, and it includes using some of those crunchy midday eats. Tamari almonds can easily make a tasty salad garnish, and buttery crackers are perfectly at home atop some dreamy mashed potatoes. Try these six recipes to wake up your nightly meal with ease. You may never look at a vending machine the same way.

1. Chip-Crusted Chicken

breaded chicken, crusted

Chip-crusted chicken | Source: iStock

Lots of chicken dishes rely on a long list of ingredients to give the bird some flavor, which can be a complete pain on busy days. Skip the hassle, and make Taste of Home’s three-ingredient chicken dish instead. The secret is barbecue potato chips. They give the chicken a sweet and salty taste while offering a great crunch. If you can’t find premade Dijon-mayonnaise at the grocery store, it’s as simple as mixing the two namesake ingredients together.

Ingredients:

  • ⅔ cup Dijon-mayonnaise blend
  • 6 cups barbecue potato chips, finely crushed
  • 6 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place Dijon-mayonnaise and potato chips in separate shallow bowls. Dip chicken in Dijon-mayonnaise to coat, then coat evenly with chips.

Place chicken on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. Serve.

2. Warm Broccoli Salad with Kale, Lime, and Roasted Tamari Almonds

broccoli, nuts, seeds

Broccoli salad with tamari almonds | Source: iStock

If the thought of a mayo-laden broccoli salad makes you shudder, you’ll love this brighter, livelier version from The Healthy Chef. It’s also just as easy. Start by sautéing some broccoli florets, garlic, and ginger in a hot skillet until the veggies start to get tender. Add a bit of kale and a spicy chile, then squeeze in some lime juice and toss in a bit of cilantro. A final flourish of tamari almonds makes this dish sing.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head of broccoli, roughly chopped
  • ½ bunch of kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 generous teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 green chile, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • Handful of tamari almonds, chopped

Directions: Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook broccoli, garlic, and ginger, tossing occasionally, until broccoli is cooked, about 3 minutes.

Add kale and cook, tossing, until just beginning to wilt. Add chile, if using, then squeeze in the lime juice and sprinkle in the cilantro. Toss until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve broccoli in bowls topped with tamari almonds.

3. Crumb-Topped Creamy Mashed Potatoes

potato casserole, crumb topping, cheese

Cheesy potato casserole | Source: iStock

Casseroles topped with crispy breadcrumbs are tasty. Casseroles topped with buttery cracker crumbs are phenomenal. See for yourself with Food.com’s cheesy mashed potato dish. With cheddar in the potatoes and a bit of garlic powder in the topping, these might be the most flavorful spuds you’ll ever eat.

These potatoes taste great any time, but we particularly like them for entertaining since they can be made in advance. Make the potatoes and cracker crumbs as directed, but hold off on topping the casserole so the crumbs don’t get soggy. Once you’re getting close to eating, top the dish, and send it to the oven. You’ll have a perfectly crisp topping.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large russet potatoes, peeled, and quartered
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 butter-flavored crackers, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions: Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling, salted water 15 to 20 minutes, or until completely tender. Drain, then return potatoes to same hot pot. Mash until smooth, and gradually add milk, stirring to incorporate until all milk is added. Stir in cheese, then spoon potatoes into a casserole dish.

Mix cracker crumbs, butter, and garlic until combined. Sprinkle over potatoes. Transfer casserole to oven, and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until potatoes are heated through and topping is golden brown. Serve.

4. Pretzel Crusted Pork Cutlets

breaded pork, cooking, pan

Pork with a pretzel crust | Source: iStock

Pork cutlets are perfect for weeknight meals since they cook up so quickly. The only downside is they can sometimes be a bit bland. Give the protein some help with Michael Symon’s easy recipe, featured on The Chew. The crushed snacks make a flavorful coating, and the dish gets even better with a mustard-spiked apple and radish salad.

If you’re not familiar with breading meats, it’s a great technique to have in your back pocket. Set up an assembly line with all of the cutlets on one side, followed by a dish filled with flour, another with the egg, one with the crumbs, and finally a clean plate for the breaded pork. As you work, try to use one hand for coating with the flour and pretzels while using the other for just the eggs. You’ll end up with evenly coated cutlets and have much less trouble cleaning up afterwards.

Ingredients:

Pork

  • ½ pound pork loin, cut into ½-inch pieces and pounded thin
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sourdough pretzels, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper

Salad

  • 2 apples, sliced
  • 1 bunch radishes, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions: Set up shallow dishes, one each with flour, egg, and crushed pretzels. Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Dip each piece of pork in flour, then egg, then pretzel.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once foaming has subsided, arrange pork in pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until browned and fully cooked. Work in batches, if needed. Remove pork to a paper towel-lined plate.

In a large bowl, whisk mustard, olive oil, vinegar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper until combined. Add apple and radish, and toss to coat. Serve salad on top of pork.

5. Asian Chicken Salad with Wasabi Dressing

Dry Spice Wasabi Peas

Wasabi peas are the secret ingredient for this dish | Source: iStock

Entrée salads have a reputation for being pretty boring, but they don’t have to be. As long as you include a good mix of flavors and textures, they can be just as delicious as any other meal. This Asian-inspired salad from Food & Wine gets it right by combining lettuce with cucumber, Asian pear, chicken, a spicy dressing, and a topping of crunchy wasabi peas.

This recipe is great for dinner as well as lunch. If you’re packing it for the office, store the dressing and wasabi peas in separate containers. When you’re ready to eat, pour the dressing into your salad container, throw the lid on, and shake the salad until it’s evenly coated. Add the peas, and lunch is served.

Ingredients:

  • 4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2½ tablespoons wasabi powder
  • 1½ teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1½ tablespoons water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 heads Boston lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large Asian pear, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
  • ½ seedless cucumber, halved and thinly sliced on an angle
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • ½ cup wasabi peas, coarsely chopped

Directions: In a large saucepan, cover chicken breasts with water, and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium-low heat until chicken is fully cooked, about 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, wasabi powder, sesame oil, and water in a small bowl to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

In a serving bowl, toss lettuce with Asian pear slices, cucumber, scallions, bean sprouts, and ⅔ cup dressing. Slice chicken into ¼-inch-thick slices, and lay on top of salad. Spoon remaining dressing over chicken, sprinkle with wasabi peas, and serve.

6. Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia

Source: iStock

Fish gets more exciting with a crispy tortilla coating | Source: iStock

No matter how carefully you transport a bag of tortilla chips, the bottom half always seems to turn to dust. Instead of throwing out those crumbs, use them to make Epicurious’ southwestern take on a fish fry. This recipe skips the fryer and uses the oven for a more hands-off approach that’s also easier to clean. While the fish bakes, mix together a simple tartar sauce with some purchased mayonnaise, lime juice, cilantro, and a bit of jalapeño. Round the meal out with some rice and a refreshing coleslaw.

Ingredients:

Fish

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg

Tartar sauce

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Sprinkle lime juice over both sides of fish, then season both sides with salt and pepper. Stir chips and cayenne to combine on a plate. Beat egg in a bowl. Dip fish fillets in egg, then in chips. Place on prepared baking sheet. Transfer to oven, and cook 15 to 17 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, combine all tartar sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sauce with fish.

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