Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XLIV

Welcome to the forty-fourth Weeknight Dinner Recap! This was another health-heralding week packed with veggies, yummy proteins, and a little decadence by Thursday. If we can’t find a balance between eating healthy foods and foods that we just love (that could be healthy too), then how is any of this possible? It’s not.

I love food way too much to be entirely limited all of the time. Sure, I’m skipping certain ingredients right now, but it’s not forever and in the process I’ve been introduced to some new flavors and foods that I never anticipated enjoying! So, it’s a win all around!

Besides, my baking passion could never be hidden away in the cupboard like some forbidden joy, it will be out and celebrated. Because baked goods, much like home-cooked dinner, make everyone happy. 

Never mind my baking, let’s get to the dinners, shall we? 

Sunday’s Dish: Pan-fried Sesame-Crusted Tilapia

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Source: Half-Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard

GFMD: Another one of those meals where you just need to make sure the soy sauce is labeled GF, otherwise you’re all set! This dish is filled with naturally gluten free goodness. 

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Outcome: We are moving along in this first month of summer and I’m loving our pattern of seafood Sundays. Happening entirely by accident, it’s become a nice way to begin the week: fresh, healthy fish with some delicious seasoning and yummy “sides.” For this one, our fish of the night was tilapia!

I’m reaching for this cookbook more often than I expected for fish recipes, but who cares?! This girl knows her way around a seafood feast! And if someone can offer us a delicious, healthy, and reliably awesome fish-featuring meal that’s really quick? Then I’m entirely sold. 

We made a couple small tweaks to this dish for both personal preference and to ensure it to be gluten free. First, for the base, we skipped soba noodles and made our new go-to cauliflower rice which worked well with the sauce that seasoned it. Delicious.

Second, we skipped making the wonton strips for the crunchy topping (per recipe suggestion) because they’re not gluten free, I didn’t feel like making them from scratch (somehow?) and we were trying to keep the meal pretty healthy. Personally, I don’t think we missed out too much. I’m sure it would’ve been a yummy final flavor, but the meal itself was so good I didn’t even notice. 

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What I loved about the dish was learning how yummy pan-fried fish can be without coating it in flour or breadcrumbs. Silly me, I thought pan-frying required such elements! But nope, not this time, and I’m so thrilled with the results. Sesame-crusted fish is really great, especially when you cook it in a little sesame oil. Crispy and crunchy from the sesame seeds, not too oily, and perfectly cooked on the inside. 

The flavor combos in this bowl were also excellent. Mixing the fish with avocado, spicy cauliflower rice, and asparagus was a seriously good bite of food and my only regret is that we were responsible with our fish portions. 🙄  

Once again, we were thrilled to find a new way to quickly make delicious seafood at home and have it with seasonal veggies for an awesome, healthy, and summery dinner. I cannot wait to make this meal again. 

PS: I joked that this fish - sesame-crusted - would be awesome for the filling of a fish sandwich. And, as I type this, I am beginning to realize I’m not joking at all. This would be an amazing fish sandwich. Perhaps with a little kimchi? I’ll make it happen. 😎

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Monday’s Dish: Sausage Salad with Radicchio and Frisée, and chickpeas

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Source: Favorites from Melissa Clark’s Kitchen by Melissa Clark

GFMD: Just make sure your sausage and chickpeas are labeled gluten free (as they should be). This is a naturally gluten free meal! 

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Outcome: I may not have expected a sausage salad (is that phrase real?!) to be a dish I would include in both the healthy and yummy bucket, but alas, it is both of those things! Good! Because this dinner was really great.

And while sausage doesn’t have the best reputation for being a health-star, I enjoy it for it’s bolder flavor than other meat options and consider it a treat in the sense that as long as you’re not only eating sausage every day, all day (been there, long story), then I am pretty sure you’ll be fine with having it every so often. 

The simplicity of this meal is what stood out to me most, especially since we’ve been craving delicious + quick meals with the summer days in full force. When it’s gorgeous out you just want to enjoy and not be tied to the stovetop. Enter: this salad!

Aside from cooking the sausage until crispy (our preference) and putting together a quick dressing, the only other prep is putting the salad greens in a bowl. To enhance the dish a bit more, and add extra protein, we opted to throw in a jar of chickpeas to the sausage. I’m glad we did! The mix of flavors and textures really made the dish pop. And once the dressing was covering it all, we knew we had another winner of a dinner.

While the recipe called for radicchio and frisée, I’m sure this salad would be great with another lettuce combo of your choosing. We went with the listed ones, and it turned out well, but it may be a little bitter for some. Thankfully, the crispy sausage and chickpeas added a hearty savory component so the bitterness didn’t really get to me.  

I must admit that I really loved this salad. Super basic and maybe not the most over-the-top, it’s small number of ingredients and easy flavors made for a terrific weeknight option. I could also see this dish as part of a dinner party side. Maybe you could serve some light, lemony seafood for the main course as a total juxtaposition from the salty + bitter sausage salad? I think that may work rather wel! :) 

PS: if you’ve never had chickpeas that have sizzled in sausage grease, well, uh, you’re missing out. ;) Life is all about balance. 😉 

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Tuesday’s Dish: Shredded Tofu with Spicy Ground Chicken and Edamame, side of Sichuan Smashed Cucumber Salad

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Source: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark

GFMD: Make sure to use gluten free soy sauce, of course, and then delight in the fact that this meal is entirely gluten free! I repeat myself often in the case of checking labels for packaged items - tofu and sauce ingredients- but it’s just for your safety! Clearly, tofu should be gluten free, but always make sure it’s labeled that way, too. ;)

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Outcome: Ahh, I loved this meal! Great flavors, easy ingredients, and the option to make it whichever level of spice you prefer! How joyful! And quite delicious.

We paired the main with the suggested smashed cucumber salad which I would deem a good decision. Not only had it been a while since we had made one of these, I was happily reminded how great they are in the summer! Easy to put together ahead of time, this cucumber salad has more flavor the longer you let it sit before eating.

For next time, I think we will prepare it a few hours early since then it would’ve had a stronger overall flavor beyond just a little spicy. But! If time/the day doesn’t allow for that, this was still a great option. Fresh, crunchy, and yummy! 

The main portion of this dinner was awesome and reminded me a lot of those larb bowls we have tried before and enjoyed. This time around it was protein-packed with tofu, ground chicken, and edamame! Talk about a satiating meal!

While we ate it on its own with a salad, I could definitely see us making this again and filling lettuce cups or even taco shells with the scrumptious mixture. It was slightly spicy due to adding sambal oelek, but Seth added extra to his bowl for even more spice. I was feeling less-enthused with spicy food at the moment so I left the spice level alone. I do enjoy spicy foods, but sometimes I’m fine with the recommended amount. 🤷‍♀️

What I loved most about this dish were the varying textures all mixed together which made for a really excellent meal. Not to mention the abundance of protein! We are working away on our wellness and this meal fit right in with our current goals.

What are those goals, might you wonder? Eating a bit healthier during the week so that indulging on the weekend will be even sweeter. ;) And conveniently, this weekend includes a lot of baking! 😉

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Wednesday’s Dish: Spring Cobb with Asparagus, Artichokes, and Avocado paired with Blackened Shrimp Skewers

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Source: What’s Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food by Gaby Dalkin

GFMD: This entire meal was naturally gluten free and dairy free! No modifications necessary! Now that’s what I’m talking about! 

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Outcome: What. A. Meal. It’s not often that I’m so enamored by such a green dinner, but I cannot help myself with this one. This summer dish screamed “welcome the warmth” and made me wish we were eating it out on some beautiful veranda overlooking a sprawling expanse of natural beauty.

Most food tastes even better when your scenery is inspiring as well, I think. However, I have also eaten some incredible food while standing barefoot in my kitchen hunched over the sink to avoid crumbs on the floor. Life! 🤗 I digress...

Since this salad was purely greens and no official meat-ish protein, we decided to include the shrimp skewers because who doesn’t love grilled shrimp with a giant salad? It’s pretty much its own category in the summer food canon (does that exist?) and there are endless options and combinations. This time around, I was thrilled with the results of this particular shrimp + salad combo. 

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The shrimp were seasoned with a somewhat standard spice mix, which tasted a bit similar to Old Bay. A classic blend, but I admit I had been hoping for something spicier to stand out against the greens.

Next time, we will go for a more Cajun route, and spice those shrimp up a lot more. However, if you’re in the mood for a milder shrimp, use this one! It was a great flavor, just calmer than I prefer on my grilled seafood. You may disagree!

Cooking them on our grill pan with large, sliced scallions (all skewered together) worked perfectly and they all got a wonderful grill-char. Imagine if we had a real, outdoor grill?! I can’t even. 😬

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The salad was a joyful combination of greens (spinach and arugula is what we chose) in addition to artichoke hearts, cucumbers, avocado, spring peas, radishes, dill, mint, and oven-roasted asparagus. Phew! That’s a lot of goodness in one bowl.

I loved all of the flavors and textures and adding a cooked, chilled vegetable was a wonderful aspect. I enjoy roasted veggies so I’m not sure why we had not used them in salads before. Now, I can’t wait to use them in that way again!

The radishes were a really fun final touch that made for a different, but welcome flavor crunch. Plus, they’re so pretty! And, if you couldn’t tell, we like our meals to look as good as they taste. ;) 

One last point: dressing! We made the recipe’s recommend lemon-champagne vinaigrette which was light and easy-breezy. Perfect for this salad or any number of other green-filled meals. But I dare suggest a heavier dressing if you’d like to indulge a bit.

We are big fans of the “treat yo’ self” blue cheese salad dressing, homemade of course, which would also be a star accessory to this salad. For that, I would pair the meal with steak tips. Or chicken. Grilled to perfection. OMG yum. I love food. 

Thankfully, the summer is underway so I have a feeling we may make this salad and steak combo before you know it... 🤗

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Thursday’s Dish: Triple Pork Mu Shu Stir-Fry

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Source: Myers and Chang at Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz

GFMD: We opted to skip the pancakes for this one, and briefly considered using lettuce wraps, but ended up serving it all on cauliflower rice, a new standard in our house.

For the sauce, make sure to use GF soy sauce, GF hoisin sauce, and you may need to order GF bean paste, like we did, since it was very hard to find in a standard grocery store. We found it on Amazon, fairly pricey, but it’s very high quality and I’m sure it added to the overall (awesome) flavor of the meal. 

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Outcome: Sometimes in life, my life at least, you just crave meat. Not just any meat, but Pork. And a lot of it. Triple pork, to be exact, which is why I’m so glad that this recipe exists and that we included it in this week’s meals.

For a week filled with healthy salads and proteins and being quite “good,” this stir fry let us relax a bit, while still getting in all the protein, and some veggies, so we stayed on track.

Track being the health-train we’ve been riding for a couple weeks and will continue on for as long as we can stomach. 😉

Life is all about balance, so our balance is eating as well as we can most of the time so that a cocktail or two, or an ice cream cone, won’t throw off all the healthy eating we aim for most of the time. Sounds pretty great to me! Summer cocktails enjoyed by the ocean = yes. 😎

But back to the pork! This dish included pork loin, bacon, and chorizo (original recipe lists Chinese sausage which is hard to find GF). Three kinds of pork that offered three different flavor and texture profiles to the meal. I loved each of them! Although I may say that the most surprising enjoyment came from the pork loin!

Tender and lean, this pork cooked so well in the wok and made for some really delicious bites. Yes, bacon is always a “happy maker,” and it did its job here as required, but I think the pork loin strips really stood out the most.

Since the chorizo was broken into pretty small pieces, the flavor wasn’t that bold against the others so while it did add to the overall meal, I thought it took a backseat/supporting role to the other porks included.

A triple pork Mu Shu is a very cool combo, but I think if we used proper Chinese sausage next time (if GF exists), then all three porks would be considered stars. :) Funny to think I’m comparing these ingredients to stars in a show, but you know, I watched the Tony Awards recently and I miss Broadway. Just go with it. 

The Mu Shu sauce was really delicious and was the perfect balance of flavors against the mostly meat-filled meal. It was not spicy, a little sweet, and all good. Next time, I would up the spice level, tone down the sweet, and make extra. ;)

One thing I love about this cookbook is all of the sauce recipes. Every single one is amazing and every single one would be awesome on so many other ingredients. We should just keep “stock” of the stir fry sauces in our fridge so we can easily add them to whatever protein/veggie we are whipping up. Hmm.. not a bad idea. ;) 

Overall, we really loved this dinner and would surely make it again - even for a crowd! It yields a hearty wok filled with so much goodness that we could have fed close to six people. We served it over cauliflower rice, but I’m sure it would be even better with lettuce wraps or GF pancakes. Next time! ;) 

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Friday + Weekend: Oh hello, weekend! So glad to see you! This weekend’s primary activity was baking! I did all of the baking for my June feature which turned out quite well! While I’m not going to give away too many details, let’s just say I made enough cookies to feed a small stadium. Don’t worry, they were not all the same kind. :)

 Dough.  

Dough.  

Other highlights from the weekend included a relaxed, happy Father’s Day, loving the summery weather, and going out to eat at the following restaurants: Legal C Bar (Lynnfield), Burton’s Grill and Bar (Burlington), Daikanayama (Lexington), and Il Casale (Lexington). 

All of these places had numerous gluten free options and very helpful waitstaff! And, I have been to each multiple times and have never had any gluten-related issues. So, I highly recommend all three! 

 Love the view on our weekend walks.  

Love the view on our weekend walks.  

Since baking took up the majority of time, I’m amazed we still got in our early-morning walks and a smidge of extra sleep. However, I could use a little more so hopefully we will get extra rest to begin the work week!

 Remember: stop and smell the roses! 

Remember: stop and smell the roses! 

How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun, or spend some time outside? We hope you had a great one and got to spend it however you like. I can only hope you had some delicious food along the way as well. ;)

Eat, well. 

Mollie and Seth

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