Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XIV
Welcome to the fourteenth edition of Weeknight Dinner Recap! While some weeks are filled with classics and favorites, this time around we did almost a full week of new recipes from those brand new cookbooks I got recently. And let me tell you, it was tough to pick my first set! There were countless delicious-sounding recipes in every one, but to be fair, I had to pick those that would be reasonably quick and not too involved because these are weeknight meals, after all.
My husband does the cooking and I wanted to make sure that the “workload” wouldn’t be too massive on any particular night. Our jobs are busy so I try to ensure that while we are going to eat well every night, I don’t want any single recipe to cause too much extra “exhaustion.” That being said, he is a true sport and when a couple of these took longer than we anticipated, he didn’t cringe once and forged ahead, making some of the most flavorful, and yummy, dishes as of late.
In other news of the week, I had a mild cold that wasn’t the greatest, November arrived, and it was Halloween! I’m not a big fan of the holiday. I hate being scared and am pretty much a “no, thanks” when it comes to costumes. But before you write me off completely and think that I’m nuts for disliking something that brings joy to children and adults alike, I do appreciate the immense effort that goes into others’ celebrations, pumpkin carving, and seeing all of my friend’s cute children in animal costumes on Facebook. Adorable! Our participation this year included a fun Halloween party last weekend (no costume for me), as well as a few pumpkins set amidst our apartment. And we had a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups because they’re deliciously gluten free and I can’t say no to fun GF candy. :)
So now, let’s review the week’s dinners and all those delicious new flavors and scents that filled our home each night. I’m sure you’ll be hungry before you finish reading! And that’s no trick. ;)
Recap begins after the jump!
Sunday: Our first at-home attempt at curry was a big success! While this is a flavor that’s taken some getting used to for me, I quickly became a big fan of curry over the last couple years. I love the varieties available as well as the amazing ingredients that go into making it taste so incredible.
I picked this recipe from my new cookbook Cherry Bombe, which I seriously recommend. It’s over 100 recipes by some of the most influential and inspiring women in the culinary field right now. It also has awesome photos, a wide variety of dishes to choose from, and even cocktails. Plus the cover is a lovely shade of pink that made me pick it up immediately.
Have we talked about my love of pink? The only color I wore for a very long time in my childhood, then it took a backseat for a long, long time, and now it’s making a joyous comeback. Maybe you saw my blush pink sneakers on insta recently? Just one example. :)
What I loved about this dinner was the introduction of so many new ingredients and flavors that blended so nicely and created one heck of a great Sunday night meal. Somewhat time consuming and labor-intensive due to lots of chopping, I could imagine this being a much faster meal if you prep the different veggies in advance. It smelled heavenly as it all simmered together and I truly have a new (continued?) adoration for coconut milk. What a treat!
In full disclosure, this dish will have a couple edits next time we make it to enhance certain elements: I’d like to include a lot more hot peppers to give it some bigger heat, I may use white meat chicken next instead of thighs (although my husband loves them), and we may add in extra coconut milk and other of the already-included ingredients to make the general flavor pop a bit more. Overall, it was great and such a new flavor profile in our house, but I’d like to tweak it just slightly next time to make it even more delicious. And quite good to know: the recipe is entirely gluten free! No adjustments needed! :)
Monday: So let’s be honest (as I choose to be here): this dish rocked and was the true standout of all the new recipes we made this week. Yes, they were all great. But this one truly shined amongst them with its amazing flavors, “sheet pan” creation, and just general “yum factor.” From another of my new books, Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark (she’s fabulous!), I was instantly interested in making this dish based on the photos alone. Can you blame me?
I had heard about this book quite a bit when it came out, all great reviews, and when I went on my cookbook splurge of 2017, I grabbed it the second I walked in the store. Yes, I buy cookbooks at full price in local bookstores. I always have and always will. I love browsing, perusing, and meandering in bookstores and I equally love supporting local, small businesses. It’s important to keep them up and running. During my first date with my husband we wandered around this very same bookstore! Ahh, memories...
Back to the chicken! Following the recipe exactly as directed, we soon enough had an apartment that smelled of such greatness, I was overwhelmed by the fact that dinner was going to be so good. I love a yummy meal. What can I say? The harissa was such a game changer that I now want to incorporate it into everything and the roast potatoes were so scrumptious I want to make them again. Like tomorrow. Or tonight. The on-the-bone chicken came out juicy and tender, as it should! And when someone includes a yogurt sauce recipe that is then drizzled over everything on that sheet pan, ah! I have no words. It was that awesome. Plus, the leeks!! OMG.
Can you tell I’m just salivating as I write this, eager to create this meal again and have those scents and flavors at our dinner table for us to inhale, again? It was naturally gluten free and naturally it was pretty much perfect. This could be our new “winter chicken” staple. I wouldn’t complain! :)
Tuesday: When a headcold and Halloween land on the same night, what do you do? Well, since we had no need to trick or treat, and a little candy saved for later, it was time to make dinner into a really big treat! The formal title for this recipe was “stovetop fusilli with spinach, peas, and gruyère,” but I would like to call our version the following: super cheesy mac and cheese with veggies and more cheese. This dish was just right for when I wasn’t feeling the greatest and wanted something inviting, warm, and comforting like a cashmere blanket (which I think is the true definition of mac and cheese).
We followed the recipe as written except for the following: using gluten free pasta (Jovial Foods elbows) instead of regular and adding fontina cheese to the mix instead of just gruyère. I personally think that dishes with multiple types of cheese taste even better. And when we go to the cheese section at a store for the required ingredients, I’m incapable of only getting one type. I like buying multiples. Because it’s way more fun. This theory (rule?) also applies to non-food items like shoes, handbags, and books (see above). :)
My one suggestion for the next time we make this, and we will because it was so, so good, would be to add a little extra of the veggie amounts. More spinach and peas would be a nice addition and dare I say maybe even adding in a third vegetable. Not sure what that would be quite yet, but I would definitely consider it. All that ooey, gooey cheese is fantastic, but the presence of veggies amidst it and the pasta gives at least a smidge of hope that it’s not the unhealthiest thing you’ll eat all week. ;)
Disclaimer: we went over on the amount listed for gruyère because I choose not to measure when it comes to cheese. You too? Good. :)
Wednesday: I had planned to include this stir fry in our dinner plans for a few weeks because the first time we made it, I was so thrilled by the outcome that I wanted it again immediately. While it looks somewhat unexciting, the flavors of the beef and veggies together is absurd.
As I mentioned on Instagram when we made this on Wednesday, one of my nostalgic moments of childhood was getting Chinese food takeout as a “reward” when I finally came around after being sick for a few days. Maybe not the best choice to eat as one of your first meals post-illness, but I could never resist the salty goodness of Chinese food, eaten on the couch, and watching some silly movie on VHS (a videotape if you will). Or maybe it was Full House re-runs that we recorded. Ha! Time flies...
More importantly than why I loved this dish, is the secret to why it’s so good: the sauce. We found a great stir fry sauce recipe in a different cookbook that’s become our go-to for Asian-flavored dinners. It’s amazing and I wish we could use it on everything. I would be more than happy to share what it is and where it’s from, if you’d like. Email me! Or as in the comments!
We marinated the beef for about 30 minutes in the sauce then began cooking away. A great aspect of this dish is that while there’s some prep (the sauce is not made from thin air), the results are so delicious you’ll entirely forget about the semi-long road to dinner.
We used Chinese broccoli and shiitake mushrooms for veggies this time around, but the last version had snow peas and the next I’m sure will include something entirely different. Except the beef! I love using beef in this meal because it comes out so well. However, I could probably be swayed to mix it up with chicken or shrimp. That sauce is so great it would probably make raw onion taste good! Well, maybe not. But you see? The secret to this dish’s success is in the sauce. That was a lot of “S.” :)
Which reminds me! I also bought the new Myers and Chang cookbook that has an insane amount of awesome recipes for meals and sauces that we need to cook yesterday. Seriously, I can’t wait!
Thursday: Brimming with summer flavor and the ease of a summer’s afternoon, this dinner was just right for the unseasonably warm day. Pulled from that same book we’ve reached for all week, this time around we did a full vegetarian dish, plus ricotta cheese (because it was in the recipe!).
Roasted eggplant and corn that’s cooked to perfection and then tossed with mint, we decided to add our own flare by including tomatoes from our ever-thriving plant and pine nuts because they added a fun crunch. The most entertaining part of putting this dish together was adding the big dollop of cool ricotta to the bowl which offset the hot, roasted veggies quite well. My favorite bites were those that had a little of every ingredient, including a mint leaf, and then “dunking” it all in the ricotta that had salt and pepper sprinkled on top. What a delicious mix! Major yum.
In some respects I guess you could call this a good option for lunch, an appetizer, or even a salad (maybe?), but that’s what’s so great about a meal that has a lot of components and flavors. You can call it dinner since it’s hearty and “rich,” but could repurpose it for your other food/entertaining needs. I’d love to serve it to friends as a starter/salad before a meat-centered meal. Maybe in smaller portions, though. ;)
An even better fact of this dish? It was entirely gluten free! No adjustments necessary which is exactly why I love buying any cookbook that strikes my fancy. No need to buy the strictly gluten free cookbooks because so many of the great “regular” ones are already chock full of awesome GF options. Don’t limit yourself just because you feel limited by this gluten free lifestyle. The choices are actually, in fact, limitless.
Friday: Oh, hi! Weekends appear faster than usual these days (a blessing in disguise?) and I’m thrilled my cold/cough has finally quieted down. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends and family, maybe a long walk, and perhaps a meal or two outside of our house. If you need a recommendation of where to go, Bar Bites is here for you! But I must admit, we are thinking about breakfast a lot lately and I’d love to make some fab GF waffles at home. Or pancakes. Or both. With some eggs. Always need eggs! :)
Stay tuned for all of our weekend food fun and get psyched for next week’s dinner plan, already in the works! I’m already hungry. 😉
Have a delicious weekend!