Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XVIII

Welcome to the eighteenth edition of Weeknight Dinner Recap! This week, much like last, featured flavors as far from the Thanksgiving food world as possible, since we’re good and done with turkey for 2017, thank you very much. However, Seth did take leftovers for work lunch all week so let’s just say he got to enjoy Thanksgiving three more times! ;)

As November is about to end (or it’s done!), I’m realizing that 2017 is coming to an end as well which makes me happy (holy potatoes, what a year) and sad (time flies), but overall I’m pretty psyched for 2018 and all of the delicious adventures ahead. Are you looking forward to the fresh start of a new year?

This week’s meals leaned toward the very-green side of things as we made a conscious effort to skip the Big Carbs of pasta and rice (it was not easy), but it did yield some pretty fabulous food and in general, I didn’t even miss those trusty sidekicks too much. Well, I did, but for the sake of this article, and all of the groceries we purchased, we stuck to the plan! Save for a cookie after dinner.. ;)

Now that I mention it, this is actually a great way to stick to your weekday food goals: once you plan meals and buy all of the ingredients, what choice do you have but to make the dishes and move on with your life? Clearly, you could say “who cares,” ditch your plan, and go out for a cocktail, but that’s not how we (mostly) do things around here. Once I write our meal plan on Sundays, we pretty much stick to it aside from rearranging the order sometimes to accommodate for unexpected excitement like laundry. :)

So, without further ado and distraction, here is this week’s Recap!  

Find it after the jump!  

 My brain felt a little like fried rice after the Thanksgiving break, but that didn’t last too long. :)

My brain felt a little like fried rice after the Thanksgiving break, but that didn’t last too long. :)

 I cannot lie: our low-carb week was interrupted a couple times by a pesky cookie-after-dinner problem. Or, not a problem, just a fact. ;)

I cannot lie: our low-carb week was interrupted a couple times by a pesky cookie-after-dinner problem. Or, not a problem, just a fact. ;)

 Shakshuka topped with dill and scallions. 

Shakshuka topped with dill and scallions. 

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Sunday: What better way to kick off a more health-focused week than with shakshuka?! This delicious, hearty, and egg-centric dish was just what we needed after days of Thanksgiving foods and more indulging than usual. I have always been a fan of this meal and tend to order it for brunch whenever I see it on a menu. Usually, it’s entirely gluten free as long as you skip the bread that’s often served with it, which is fine by me! However, “soaking up the sauce” with a chunk of baguette sounds quite appealing. I digress! 

The recipe we used was found in, what else, but Dinner by Melissa Clark, and we followed it as written which was beautifully gluten free. And this joyfully proves that once again, you do not need to only buy/find/research specifically gluten free recipes. Amazing ones are all around you and most of the time many of your favorites are already entirely gluten free, naturally! 

This shakshuka came out so well (and so pretty!) we actually ate the entire dish. Gluttonous? A bit. Worth it? Completely. But due to the fact that it’s mostly eggs, tomatoes, peppers, and just a smidge of cheese, I wasn’t even too full after my half-pan portion. 🤭 Maybe that’s why they suggest serving it with (GF) bread? So you don’t inhale the entire platter. ;) 

 Sweet peppers and Sausages with onions and ricotta salata. Served over a bed of arugula. 

Sweet peppers and Sausages with onions and ricotta salata. Served over a bed of arugula. 

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Monday: I have come a long way in regard to encouraging/welcoming salad beds on my dinner plate; however, for this meal, a bed of arugula not only looked awesome, but really tied all of the ingredients together and acted as a faux-roll (just go with it) for the sausage, peppers, and onions.

While the initial recipe (from Dinner) was very straightforward and wonderfully easy for a weeknight, the end result was actually way more exciting and delicious than I really expected. Well no, I knew it would be yummy, but I didn’t realize how yummy. The flavors of the oven-roasted peppers and onions were perfect and the sausages, once put under the broiler for a few minutes before serving, came out crispy-edged and flavor-filled. Our kitchen smelled so good! 

While we ate this scrumptious mix, topped with ricotta salata, and over a fresh handful of arugula, we realized it was quite evident that this was (in a way) a version of Seth’s favorite Fenway Park staple, but deconstructed, and probably a wee-bit healthier. No, I don’t think sausages are really a part of a balanced diet (long story), but they are a treat. And when served with fresh veggies, salad, and minimal extra oil, they are a great weeknight option making us nostalgic for summer nights at the ballpark having a Fenway classic. But let’s be real: while Seth has the sausage/pepper/onion combo for baseball games, I’m usually satisfied with a bun-less hot dog and a large tub of popcorn. Play ball! ;)

 Thai chicken with coconut milk and lemongrass. 

Thai chicken with coconut milk and lemongrass. 

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Tuesday:  Since implementing a weekly Thai food feature (a great accident), making us happier than ever (and full of coconut milk), this week’s was bright and delicious, and a bit lighter than some of the other Thai dishes we’ve made as of late. As my focus/determination to avoid pasta and rice this week stood strong, I did make an exception in the form of quinoa since I couldn’t bare to make this chicken and sauce without having it on top of something. Quinoa did the trick! 

What I enjoyed most about this dinner in particular was that it had us cooking the chicken in the pan, amidst the coconut and lemongrass sauce, by way of “steaming” in a way and the result was awesome. The chicken came out perfectly juicy and full of flavor which is sometimes a worry with other methods, let’s be honest.

The sauce on top included shiitake mushrooms, coconut milk, lemongrass, and a lot of Serrano and jalapeño peppers. The recipe noted them to be optional as if to suggest not everyone wants a spicy dinner, but not in this house! Maybe one of my favorite parts of these recent Thai nights is the addition of hot peppers into so many of our meals. While I don’t love food to be a “can’t touch this” level of heat, I do enjoy a strong bite and the specific type of heat that comes from serranos  and jalapeños is just right. Thankfully, Seth shares my preference for spicy foods and throwing in extra peppers when the mood strikes. 

Of note for this dinner: we chose to serve it over red quinoa, which is just about the easiest thing to make, and it worked so well with the chicken and spicy sauce. Less familiar with making quinoa at home, we learned that you don’t need much dry quinoa to make a big batch of cooked quinoa and we ended up having a lot left over. Do you make quinoa at home often? It was delicious! I dare say I liked it just as well as if we had made white rice (gasp) instead. ;)

 Brussels sprouts and Panko-breaded chicken.  

Brussels sprouts and Panko-breaded chicken.  

 Brussels wreath! Your new favorite holiday accessory. 

Brussels wreath! Your new favorite holiday accessory. 

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Wednesday: When weeknights involve life tasks like laundry, washing your hair, or another unexciting but must-happen chore, we often turn to the simplest, quickest of meals: chicken and vegetable (of choice). So, keeping in the holiday spirit, and our of-choice lack of pasta, we opted for crispy, Panko-breaded chicken with Brussels sprouts. Panko breadcrumbs on chicken is one of my simple pleasures of dinnertime. Crispy outside,  chicken inside, and goes with just about any dipping sauce you have available.

For this night, not pictured, I whipped up a combo of “my favorite flavors dipping sauce” and hoped for the best! A riff on the Kimchi yogurt sauce recipe out of Myers and Chang at Home, I didn’t quite have everything it called for so improv took over, and thankfully, it was still good.

I mixed Kimchi, Greek yogurt, GF Tamari, and Asian fish sauce, all together in a bowl and stirred well. Was it kind of clumpy because I didn’t chop the Kimchi? Yes. Was it still delicious when we dipped Panko chicken into it? Of course! Often I’ll decide on an extra piece of dinner way too late and will have to make an improvised version of the item I’m currently seeking. This time around, my dabbling in the fridge worked out and we had a yummy accompaniment to our otherwise somewhat “regular” chicken dish. I love Kimchi!

Surrounding our plate, I decided on a Brussels sprouts wreath because I currently don’t know too many ways to display sprouts in an eye-catching manner, and this seemed like the best option for this meal and the time of year. We cook Brussels sprouts in cast iron (duh) with a little olive oil, an onion, and a lot of garlic. They come out perfectly and always have a nice sear on one side. Thanks to Seth for making me wait to throw in the sea salt as he has said that by waiting, a lot of the water is released from the sprouts and that’s when the searing happens (let me know if you’d like the exact science sort of answer instead).

Our preferred salt is Maldon sea salt and we use it to season most of our dishes that need flaky sea salt. If you ask nicely, I’ll share a photo of the 5-pound tub we keep in the cupboard. :) Overall, if you’re opting out of adding bacon to your Brussels sprouts, I recommend onions and lots of garlic. And some sea salt. Works every time. :)

Basic chicken and veggie plates are our best solution to a busy evening. What are some of your favorite meals for when other tasks take precedence over dinner? I’d love to know!  

 Sweet and Sour Shrimp, topped with cilantro.  

Sweet and Sour Shrimp, topped with cilantro.  

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Thursday: Conveniently, our sixteen-monthaversary (go with it) coincided with the night we made this beautiful, bright, and super flavorful dinner. Our wedding in 2016 was just fabulous, and while I could go on and on, I will spare you the rest. But, if you contact me separately and want to know more about our summer wedding in Boston, I’d be more than happy to share every last joyous detail. Can you tell I’m in denial about it being over (still)? :)

On to dinner! We picked a new recipe from the Cherry Bombe cookbook and a dish that is by cool-girl-in-the-kitchen, Padma Lakshmi. Fun fact: she and Seth went to the same college! The recipe was for Sweet and Sour Shrimp and by this night, I had to cave and serve it on white rice. The bright, almost electric neon colors in the bowl just ached to be served on rice and by this point in the week, I had surrendered to my original “no Big Carb” proclamation of the past weekend. And thankfully, this was the right recipe in which to surrender. 

Entirely gluten free, we made no modifications to the recipe and were blown away by the great balance of flavors, the amazing colors, and the incredible scent flowing through our kitchen as it all simmered together. I have a newfound appreciation for turmeric and continue to believe that a large number of tomatoes cooked together with shrimp will always taste amazingly good. There were a lot of ingredients to this meal, but they worked together seamlessly creating a true “sweet and sour” effect as the recipe title indicated. OMY. Oh my yum. ;)

We definitely will be making this dinner again as it would be a great one for a small group due to its eye-catching display and fragrant aroma, but also works well for an at-home special occasion meal. But then again, I don’t think you need a special occasion or specific reason to have an awesome, delicious, and beautiful meal in your own home; just make sure to enjoy it with those you care about most. :)  

 December feels: hot coconut milk soup with chicken and Serrano peppers.  

December feels: hot coconut milk soup with chicken and Serrano peppers.  

 Athens the cat, in her natural favored position. 

Athens the cat, in her natural favored position. 

Friday: Oh hey, weekend! This week definitely flew by (shocking), and so did the weekend! On Friday night we ventured to Banyan Bar and Refuge in the South End for a light dinner, followed by late night (read 8pm) snacks at Bristol Restaurant and Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel. As one of the only spots I can safely eat contamination-free truffle fries, we head to Bristol whenever the craving strikes. :) Find both of these restaurants over in Bar Bites! 

 Mapo Tacos at Banyan Bar and Refuge. Amazing.  

Mapo Tacos at Banyan Bar and Refuge. Amazing.  

 Snack heaven over at Bristol: GF pasta and cheese and a side of truffle fries. Don’t worry, we shared! But oh man, these were  good . 

Snack heaven over at Bristol: GF pasta and cheese and a side of truffle fries. Don’t worry, we shared! But oh man, these were good

Saturday lent itself to Christmas tree decorating with Seth’s family and getting in to the holiday spirit! There were so many pretty ornaments we used on the tree, I’ve shared a couple photos below. Doing this activity definitely got me in the December mindset and now all I can think about is holiday merriment and cheer. And a lot of shopping I have yet to do. 😬

Later that night we wound up at Regal Beagle for a casual, warm dinner at the bar which is always relaxing and filled with fun chatter with the bartender. I’ve also determined that the White Russian is my holiday cocktail of choice for this season. Who’s with me? 

 White Russian, my holiday season cocktail.  

White Russian, my holiday season cocktail.  

 Wreath in our apartment. Hooray for bringing the holiday cheer inside! 

Wreath in our apartment. Hooray for bringing the holiday cheer inside! 

 One of the very pretty ornaments on the tree! 

One of the very pretty ornaments on the tree! 

Sunday, as usual, included meal planning, grocery shopping, and a few random errands, but it also included a fun brunch at The Friendly Toast! Watch Bar Bites for my review of our very gluten free-filled meal heading there soon! It will be in the Classics section.

The rest of the day I pored over cookbooks, wandered around the mall, visited with family, and eventually got home and made dinner. What did we make you may wonder?  Head on over to Instagram to see! Or, wait for next week’s edition of Weeknight Dinner Recap! Hope to see you reading! :) 

I hope you had a wonderful, holiday season weekend and are feeling the love. The holidays are upon us. I need to get baking... ! 

Eat well,

Mollie

 Cheers, and happy holidays!  

Cheers, and happy holidays!  

 How many batches of these babies are we going to be making over the next few weeks? I’m betting a LOT.  

How many batches of these babies are we going to be making over the next few weeks? I’m betting a LOT.  

 I love the glow. 

I love the glow. 

 Athens, stop thinking about napping, it’s time to shop! She’s laying on a heater, by the way. Life is good.

Athens, stop thinking about napping, it’s time to shop! She’s laying on a heater, by the way. Life is good.