Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XXXIV

Welcome to the thirty-fourth Weeknight Dinner Recap! Last week was a bit of a blur, don’t you think? Not only because of busy work days, workouts, and general “buzzing” that hums through our weeks, but because of so many amazing meals! This set really stood out from the pack in many ways, especially a couple dinners in particular.

I remember during planning that it seemed like it would be a really scrumptious week, and that was completely accurate. No shame here! We love great food and we love making meals right from the headlines. Case in point: a few this week came straight out of the current issue of Bon Appètit! Which means for you, lucky dinner-lovers, you can get these recipes online, too! Hooray!

So let’s get to the details before I salivate any more and pick my jaw up off the floor. These dinners were good.  On to the plates!

Sunday’s Dish:  Spicy Lamb Meatballs and Smashed Cucumber Salad With Za’atar and Feta

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Recipe: Both of these recipes can be found online and in the print version of the April Bon Appètit magazine.Meatball recipe by Andy Baraghani and Cucumber Salad Recipe by Chris Morocco. 

GFMD: Other than making sure to use GF Panko in the meatballs, this entire meal was naturally gluten free! As always, check packaging of prepared items (such as nuts and Greek yogurt). While of course they should be gluten free, you can never be too safe. The label needs to say so!

One more trick: check the ingredient section titled “Contains,” which has to say if there is wheat. I often check there if a bold “gluten free” phrase can not be found. 

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Outcome: From the moment I saw this meal on the magazine’s cover, I knew we needed to make it. And I knew I needed to inhale it! Meatballs are a frequent flier on our table and these were fantastic, not to mention the freaking awesome pesto underneath.

Yes, I was skeptical of the golden raisins in the pesto recipe, but I held my breath, criticism, and fear inside like every trying-to-be-bold dinner-eater should be. And, of course, like the majority of flavors I stupidly fear, it turned out to be amazing. This pesto was so good, in fact, that I asked Seth to double the recipe while he was cooking (we tasted it mid-prep), so we’d have extra pesto available for dipping.

Those spicy lamb meatballs, brutally awesome on their own, were even more joyful when dipped in the crisp plain yogurt and mint and golden raisin pesto that they rested on for the photos. Mmm! Even looking at the photo, only days later, I kind of want this meal again. Ever since we started using lamb for meatballs, quite scrumptious, I get these absurd cravings for them on a whim, fairly often. I’m spoiled by their flavor and I miss them already. 

Don't forget the smashed cucumber salad! Never. This was another new dish for us, but omg it was so good and now I want smashed cucumber salads every day and night. Cold, crispy cucumbers lightly smashed (literally) and then tossed with spices, oil, and feta, is basically the salad you wish you could find as an on-the-go food option in whatever fast-pace lunch spot you sprint to during the work day.

I’m sure iterations exist somewhere, but for the sake of this review and my own access to easy-lunch, I’m saying it doesn’t exist. But Mollie, why don’t you just make it at home and bring it with you to work? You’re probably saying to yourself.

Because I’m ridiculously lazy, that’s why! No, actually, I'm not lazy at all. I just love to save the most special of foods and flavors for dinnertime when I can sit in the privacy of my own home, simmering amidst my own thoughts of food happiness.

When meals like these are this delicious, all I want to do is think about the food. Not the work tasks that are building up in my inbox. ;)

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Monday’s Dish:  Mushroom Capellini Carbonara

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Recipe: The recipe is from Weeknight Gluten Free by Kristine Kidd, part of the Williams-Sonoma cookbook collection. However, there are countless carbonara recipes online! We used this as a base, and elaborated a bit to suit our tastebuds.

GFMD: Just make sure to use GF pasta! We used Capellini from Jovial Foods, and the rest is good to go! 

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Outcome: After the longest Monday ever, all I could look forward to was a yummy dinner that was warm and comforting. Thankfully, this recipe was on tap for the week so I shuffled it to the front (Monday night) to bring a little joy to an otherwise very blah day. 

Is there anything more decadent and amazing-smelling than that of slowly caramelizing onions with mushrooms and bacon? Probably not. 😮

While the recipe for a traditional Carbonara goes one way, we decided to edge a little the other way and make it even more flavorful by cooking the ingredients longer, adding extra Parmesan, a little extra wine, and throwing in peas because spring may someday arrive. :)

The result of our tweaks was one of the most incredible, decadent pasta dinners we’ve ever had at our table. YUM! YUM! YUM! Another night where I was so engulfed by the flavor and goodness of every bite, we basically sat in silence inhaling our bowls of our version (adaptation?) of a traditional carbonara recipe.

Usually, I’m less-exciting and request sticking to the recipe becase I like to know the exact flavor that the author is trying to create. However, Seth is getting better at encouraging me to let him take some liberties with the recipes.

I dislike change (sorry!) and I hate surprises (don’t get me started), but I’m working on both! And that means letting him mix it up with our dinners from time to time. Thank goodness I’m a little more relaxed because this dinner was glorious!! 

Make this meal when you want something warm, comfy, and downright fabulous. It’s a dish for when a traditional red sauce just won’t cut it! 

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Tuesday’s Dish:  Blackened Halibut Tacos with Mango Salsa

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Recipe: This recipe is from Half-Baked Harvest Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard. 

GFMD: The only change made was that we used Halibut instead of the Mahi-Mahi that the recipe called for. Our grocery store was out at the time, so Seth chose one of my other favorites! Just use corn tortillas and this is naturally gluten free!

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Outcome: So despite having my heart set on mahi-mahi for these tacos, Seth told me the store had run out (didn’t have it?) and he opted for a more luxury-themed evening. Grateful that he knows me well, very well, and remembers all of my favorites kinds of fish, he decided on Halibut instead which is a fish I choose whenever possible in restaurants.

He also knows we love tacos and bought the biggest piece of Halibut I’ve ever seen. It was gigantic. Fairly risky choice since this was a new-to-us recipe, but honestly are tacos ever that much of a risk? No. They are pretty much almost always entirely awesome and delicious. Joyfully that was the case with these as well. 

Hello, flavor!! The Cajun-spiced, pan-grilled Halibut topped with a homemade mango salsa (wow) with a little cream cheese (yes, not kidding) spread underneath is my new favorite at-home fish taco. I know that’s a bold statement, but I’ll own it since this was by far the most scrumptious and flavor-filled fish taco we’ve made and I couldn’t eat them fast enough. I was surprised by how great the cream cheese was as a base and yet, I’m not surprised at all. 

Cool and creamy cream cheese was a fantastic juxtaposition to the hot, spicy-ish grilled fish and semi-sweet salsa. We squeezed fresh lime over all of it and tapped it to be one of the best of the week. In fact, I may even say it was one of the best tacos in general that we have made at home. 😮

Another fun-fact from the meal prep? Our smoke alarm did not go off while using our grill pan to cook the fish! Sure, I opened all of the windows (it was freezing out) and had multiple fans running and was pacing around the apartment waiting for it to happen, but amazingly, it did not! And that made the dinner even better, in my opinion. ;)

This cookbook has provided us with a number of excellent dishes, each with very few (if any) modifications to be made gluten free. However, this one in particular stands out for the flavors and I can’t wait to make it again. The plate screamed summer (just look at it!) and so I hope the next time we have these tacos it’s hot, sunny, and feels like summer, too.  😎

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Wednesday’s Dish:  Spicy Larb with Cabbage Cups

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Recipe: Another one we grabbed from the current issue of Bon Appètit which is also available online. Win win! Online, find it within Healthyish.

GFMD: Naturally gluten free! See above regarding my PSA about packaged foods: check the labels!! I never buy anything that is made on shared equipment with wheat. You can never be too careful! 

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Outcome: Recently, I’ve gravitated toward recipes where the end result is a form of build-your-own-plate. Specifically, these meals have been “fill your piece of lettuce or cabbage with this mixture, that topping, and this garnish,” which somehow always comes out well and we really enjoy it.

And while we are pretty particular about which recipes we choose each week, thus removing a lot of the potential for a “bad meal,” you never really know how much you will love it until you actually eat. Case and point: this Spicy Larb with Cabbage Cups served with brown rice and toasted peanuts. 

I admit that the photo of this dish in the magazine as well as the description given before the recipe was what really sold me on it. Everything about it sounded fun, easy, and full of some of our favorite flavors! Thankfully, the photo and description were  (mostly) correct.

While I dare to admit that we’ve made other meals with bolder flavors, this one was great in its tamer profile. I loved the crunchy elements, the brightness from the lime, and the soft sprinkle of brown rice underneath the ground pork mixture. What I was surprised by was the fact that each bite wasn’t quite as “wow” as I had hoped. Yes, we enjoyed the meal and loved certain components, but I must be honest and say I expected more!

Sure, I would consider making this one again, so long as we can readjust some of the ingredients so that the dish itself has more of a “hello, yummy dinner!” rather than a bit of a “hello... dinner,” tone. 😳 If this description sounds funky, then you’re right! I have a hard time admitting that something is missing in certain recipes especially when they’re talked up so much - I was excited! But maybe that’s just the way this one is supposed to be and taste?

And while I wasn’t exactly let down by this dinner, I do think we are pretty used to very bold and spicy flavors so the expectations were high for major flavor and spice. Instead, we got good flavor, little spice, and a meal we decided may be missing something (in our opinion). 😬 

Editor’s note: this is a very good recipe and meal! Just not sure it’s the best one for us. You may love it, so I encourage you to try it in your kitchen next!

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Thursday’s Dish: Chickpea and Chorizo Tostadas

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Recipe: This recipe is from Basically, a site within Bon Appètit. A result of a random recipe search on their website, I must admit I cannot remember the exact terms I used to find it. 😬 

GFMD: Naturally gluten free so long as you use corn-based tostada shells which are essentially corn tortillas!

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Outcome:  Isn’t it just the best when you pick a simple recipe and then it blows your expectations out of the water? I love when that happens and I love it even more when it involves tacos. Or, in this case, tostadas.

To the naked eye, these may look somewhat involved (they are not) and take a decent amount of time to prepare (nope!), but in reality they are a super-simple, flavor-packed weeknight dinner powerhouse which I was thrilled to stumble upon during one of my never-ending scrolling of recipes online.

Yes, I often default to Bon Appètit and am working on expanding my repertoire (I look at several other sites too - surprise!). However, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? Or whatever that saying is that people sometimes (maybe) still use. I love this resource for awesome dinner ideas so just go with it. Especially when we get to indulge in a fantastic meal such as this one.

This was our second night of the week featuring tacos (tostadas) and I must admit that made the week itself infinitely better, and way more delicious. These had a light, super-lime crema base and an easy chorizo and chickpea topping. A sprig of cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and bam! Dinner was served and dinner was awesome.  

For our personal preference, we cooked the chorizo a little extra so it got nice and crispy which was a great decision when mixed with the softer chickpeas. Put them together and you got a really delicious flavor combo that was a perfect topping to that cold, very lime-y, crema. Oh! And it was made with Greek yogurt, so even more protein filling our tostadas. Yes, this was a very protein-packed dinner. Hooray! 

A note about these wonderful tostadas that you should make when your friends, family, or neighbor comes over: we opted to double the recipe because we love food and couldn’t imagine only eating two of these. Sure, you could leave it as is and serve it with a great side dish or (gasp) a salad, but I had a hunch we may love it a little more than we expected so doubling it all was a good call.

Doubling the ingredients allowed for a little leftover which made Seth’s life fabulous (work lunch!) and let us be a little more heavy-handed with the fillings. A thin tostada is not a happy tostada. In my opinion. 🤗 Yes, there’s that whole balance of flavors aspect and I respect it, but in my house I want a very full tostada. And for these ones, I’m sure you would too!

So, see you soon for tostadas at our place? 😉

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Friday + Weekend: Oh hi, Friday! We toasted the weekend, and a lot of other joy, by going out Friday night, cooking in on Saturday night, and doing a lot of things in between! Weekends. Are. Too. Short. But also they are the best. :)

Friday night we grabbed seats at The Bancroft’s bar, which is basically our new weekly spot to relax with awesome cocktails, crave-worthy polenta fries, salads, and sometimes even steaks! I know we land there often, but I can’t help it.

 Yummy burrata!

Yummy burrata!

After crazy busy weeks and all kinds of yummy dinners, I really look forward to a very straight-forward night out where I don’t have to worry about anything. And that definitely includes availability of great gluten free food. I love going to new restaurants, of course, but I tend to prefer saving that for Saturday night. When I’m for sure wide-awake. ;)

The rest of our weekend included lunch at The Friendly Toast in Burlington, MA with good friends we hadn’t seen in way too long, a lot of miscellaneous errands, seeing family, making another round of that awesome carbonara, a trip to Bloomingdale’s (yay!), and finally getting to my baking for the month. ;)

I won’t share too many details yet of the very-involved process, so for now, let’s just say all went well and we devoured them immediately. I can’t wait to tell you all about it! April’s baking may just be the most delicious yet. Maybe! 

 Dough process.  

Dough process.  

 Her new favorite spot.. right where I like to sit.  

Her new favorite spot.. right where I like to sit.  

In other news that’s not edible, I’ve got fresh, yellow tulips on my dining room table and I love them; Athens, our cat, tried stealing something very sweet when we weren’t looking, and I’d like to put in a formal request for spring-like weather to arrive. It’s time!!  

 Yellow tulips are my new go-to for our kitchen table. Nice and sunny!  

Yellow tulips are my new go-to for our kitchen table. Nice and sunny!  

We hope you had a delicious weekend too and got to enjoy a few of your favorite foods while having some fun. Cheers to a great week!

Eat well, 

Mollie and Seth

 Anxiously awaiting warm weather!  

Anxiously awaiting warm weather!  

 Saturday night’s Carbonara, part II! 

Saturday night’s Carbonara, part II!