Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XLIII

Welcome to the forty-third Weeknight Dinner Recap! The healthy train was in full speed this week and these dinners will have you feeling great and enjoying every, scrumptious bite!

Not only did we manage two nights that were entirely meatless, we got through the entire week without serving anything over rice or pasta. While I’m slightly sad about this, it’s a necessary process for the time being. I’m feeling great and am proud of the dinners we are enjoying that don’t include those items.

Of course, you may decide to adjust these meals to incorporate them, but over on our table, we are going without for a little while. Thankfully, that hasn’t stopped us at all from eating absurdly delicious dinners packed with flavor (joy) and protein. So, let’s get to the dinners, shall we?   

Sunday’s Dish: Chimichurri Cauliflower Rice Bowl with Grilled Fish

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

GFMD: Naturally gluten free! Here here to another recipe from this book that didn’t need any adjustments. 

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Outcome: Well, this cookbook comes through again with a delicious, wonderfully colorful meal that leans on the side of health without sacrificing an ounce of flavored joy. Yes, there are plenty of less-healthy options in it, but we’ve been trying to choose the ones that aren’t quite as carb-heavy (there’s a time and place for everything though). Basically, I’m so glad we started the week with this one!

This recipe introduced us to a new variation on mango salsa and welcomed us into the world of cauliflower rice. Health train, coming through! Have you made cauliflower rice yet? Have you eaten it yet? If not, then I highly recommend checking it out and whipping it up for your next meal.  

Cauliflower rice, as it turns out, is extremely easy to make, but definitely needs some attention in the flavor department. In this instance, once it was cooked (stirred briefly over low heat), we mixed in the chimichurri sauce as the recipe requested. This helped a lot! By mixing in this very flavorful helper, the cauliflower rice took on a new dimension and slowly slid away from being a rice-like vegetable to a real dinner component. 

I would definitely consider making this “rice” again since it’s texture was similar to real rice but doesn’t leave you feeling too full afterward which usually happens to me. I love rice so portion control is sometimes an issue, thus making cauliflower rice an awesome option next time we need it! 

The mango + pineapple salsa was like eating summer. Bright, fun, a little spicy, and a lot of happy in every bite. You can’t not smile when you look at this stuff! And it’s super delicious with the grilled fish.  😎

The fish! As instructed, we bought mahi mahi and grilled it on our grill pan for the main protein piece of the bowl. Delicious and mild, this fish was a great option; however, next time we make it I may add Cajun seasoning to kick up the flavor. I think it could use some extra spice and I don’t think that would compete with the salsa at all.

Also, since this seems like a pretty versatile dish, I’d even suggest trying a different fish/protein such as cod, haddock, shrimp, or (non-ocean) chicken. We may actually do that next time just to show how easy it is to make minor adjustments on meals you love to make another, new meal to love.

That’s one of the benefits I’ve noticed lately with all of our recipes each week: small tweaks here and there could find you with another delicious dinner option that’s not too far from the original plan, but offers new flavors and a different approach to something you’ve already enjoyed! 

PS: these bowls would also be awesome if consumed on the beach, staring at the ocean. My mind’s in summer mode. Could you tell? ;)  

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Monday’s Dish: Skillet Chicken with Smashed Olives and Sumac, side of roasted asparagus 

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Source: Dining In by Alison Roman 

GFMD: Naturally gluten free! This book is chock-full of recipes that need no changes whatsoever. It’s the best. 

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Outcome: How do you take your chicken nights in a new, more fun direction, you may wonder? Well! Have we got a new recipe suggestion for you! This skillet chicken featured ultra-crispy chicken skin, very juicy chicken, and a flavor that I had no idea I’d been missing so much. Welcome to our table, skillet chicken! 

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Not only was this chicken simple to make, it also yielded some incredible pan-juice with which to cook the other items (Smashed Olives and red onions) so that every single bite was undeniably awesome. Castelvetrano olives are cooked in that juice along with a decent amount of Sumac, another flavor I didn’t know I enjoyed, and the result is crave-worthy! Also, if you ever need to remove the pits from a lot of olives, by hand, let me know. I’m now an expert. ;) 

Be warned: cooking bone-in chicken in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil makes a mess. It kind of erupted oil splatter all over the floor, cabinets, and countertop, but you know, #worthit . The crispy skin is unreal and the entire dish is one worth sharing with friends and family, time and again. 

We served this dinner over oven-roasted asparagus because we’re sticking to our wellness goals. Asparagus season is still going strong and we are including it weekly! Can’t get enough of it! If you have any favorite asparagus recipes, send them over; we love it plain/roasted, but new suggestions are always welcome.

On a health note, the chicken was definitely sizzling in some oil, but the overall dinner was a lot healthier than alternatives (fried chicken and mashed potatoes for example). As with all of our dinners and mealtime goals, balance is important. For the time being, we are working hard and look forward to the “treats” that we enjoy on the weekend.

Besides, how could you consider a meal like this anything but a great treat anyway? The flavors, ingredients, and overall dish was just incredible. And you know, who says no to crispy chicken skin? ;)  

PS: the fresh herbs sprinkled on everything took this dish to the top! Fresh dill and mint are a tour de force on this one. Major. Yum. 

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Tuesday’s Dish: Kung Pao Chickpeas

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

GFMD: Make sure to use GF soy sauce and check other sauce-required ingredients! Otherwise, everything in this dish is gluten free! As is, it’s also vegan. Surprise!

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Outcome: What I’m loving (and learning from) about dinner lately is being surprised left and right with how I feel after eating certain types of dishes. Whether they have meat, chicken, or seafood, or if they have none of it and are entirely vegetarian or even vegan, I’m open to all of it. I’m trying to throw my “I only do this” mentality around food out the window and it’s been really eye-opening and just plain delicious. Case in point: this meal!

My excitement around this dish was based on the fact that literally every recipe we’ve made from this book has been a complete win. I love the restaurant (in Boston’s South End) and am so thrilled that the book is living up to the high expectations I secretly had. Every dish is as scrumptious as I hope it will be and has welcomed all kinds of new, awesome flavors onto our table.

The success of this meal was the combination of chickpeas and cashews as the proteins cooked in the wok with a handful of crisp veggies in a sauce that can only be described as “YUM.” And Wow. So, so, so good. 

Not only was it absurdly delicious, but it got better with time (much like Chinese food leftovers of my past). We had a little leftover and I had a few bites of it cold from the fridge the next day. YES! For this reason alone (and more), I know we will be making this dinner frequently, especially since it was really quick to make, too. 

The fact that this plate was vegan was a fun bonus, in my opinion. I don’t seek out vegan or non-vegan dinners, but when one happens to be without meat etc, I don’t balk at it, since you never know what your new favorite meal will include! And labels are silly, to some degree, when we get to the bottom of it. If a food/dinner/snack/dessert is delicious (gluten free) and you enjoy it, who cares what group it belongs to? 🤗 I just want to have a great meal. 

For future versions, I might swap out the chickpeas for chicken, just for fun, or even shrimp, because let’s be a little adventurous! Something that’s terrific about these quick wok-based dinners is that you really could use any protein you like, be it chicken, seafood, beef, or chickpeas. Of course it may alter the final flavor a little from the original, but you know, who cares? The result will just be another awesome dinner you can’t wait make again. :) 

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Wednesday’s Dish: Creamy Zucchini and Sausage

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Source: Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry

GFMD: We swapped out pasta for zucchini noodles! In an effort of health and the fact that zucchini noodles are so good! In future iterations, we may just use GF pasta, but for this instance we decided on “zoodles.” I’m sorry, I’m not a fan of that term. 😬

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Outcome: You know, this dinner was delicious. And I barely (only slightly) missed the original version which would have used actual pasta, and not the zucchini stand-in. I’m not declaring pasta gone from our plates, but it’s on a vacation and will be back in a while. Let’s say pasta is on a mini-sabbatical from our home. Don’t worry - it will be back!

So why in the world would I use my new pasta cookbook if I’m abstaining from the good stuff? Because life goes on, friends, and the dinner show must continue. However, I refuse to stop using my books, especially the ones as lovely as this one, for dinner inspiration and recipes. And that’s how this dinner came to be. I loved the sound of this recipe and realized that we could make two quick edits to make it gluten free and healthier.  

We skipped the pasta entirely and used zucchini noodles which still allowed us to use part of the zucchini in the sauce (as instructed) and didn’t leave us hungry or searching for the “real” version of the dish. Real would have been, for us, using GF pasta and the chopped zucchini as an element of the dinner, and not a primary feature. 

But, here we are and here we say that this dinner was still awesome and omg Italian sausages in a light, tomato-based cream sauce is a flavor I’ll never forget. As Seth described, we were having “sausage bisque,” which may sound disgusting, but honestly is something I think everyone needs to try at least once.

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I do wonder if this bisque was a result of the sauce not thickening, (blame the zoodles?) but I honestly don’t care. It was a scrumptious bowl of yum and I couldn’t get enough. 

I would highly recommend making this meal! Due to the great flavors and fun ingredient combos, and regardless of whether you choose to make it with zucchini noodles, or go for the original gold with great GF pasta. Either way, your dinner will be scrumptious and your new favorite term to surprise and delight everyone you know will be “sausage bisque.” ;) 

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Thursday’s Dish: Warm White Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto, topped with anchovy breadcrumbs and toasted pine nuts

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Source: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. Recipe for the breadcrumbs is available in Dining In by Alison Roman

GFMD: Naturally gluten free! For this meal, we decided to top it with GF breadcrumbs, but the original recipe was actually GF and no adjustments were necessary. 

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Outcome: While still mildly skeptical of having just salad for dinner, I’m pretty sure this one is what has made me change my tune and embrace the concept. It was absolutely delicious, and actually filling!

With a basic arugula base that was just tossed with a little olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, the multitude of awesome ingredients that went on top made that unassuming plate of arugula become a star dinner. Most notably, the white beans mixed with arugula (again!) pesto. A new favorite!  

Arugula pesto is a new pesto for us and I can’t believe we are just now experiencing it’s goodness. Using the traditional pesto components, but subbing in arugula for basil, and adding lemon juice and chopped almonds, creates a creamy, majorly delicious pesto that I can see us using on many, many, other meals. I mentioned during dinner that I’d love to use this pesto as a marinade for grilled shrimp. YUM! 

So while the pesto and white beans created our primary protein, the final touches (which I decided to add in!) were what we think made the dish complete. There was a noticeably absent “crunch factor” in the written recipe which we created (and deemed crucial) by adding in anchovy breadcrumbs and toasted pine nuts. The official best crunchy toppings to your salad.

Who needs croutons when you can have crunchy, salty, awesome anchovy breadcrumbs?! I don’t miss the crouton at all especially since we made a lot of those breadcrumbs and they’re a major treat when you sprinkle them on your eggs at breakfast.

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The toasted pine nuts were a fun, final topping to add another flavor and texture, as they were a visual nod to the pesto that was already mixed into the dish. And who doesn’t love them?

What we loved about this dinner was the variety of textures, the incredible pesto, the warm beans, and the final crunches on top. Basically, this was a standout dinner that could hold its own against bigger,  more involved meals.

I would consider this salad a dinner on its own, mostly due to the beans; however, I would think it might be fun to have this as a first course for a summer dinner party before the main meal. What’s the main course, you ask? Any number of dishes would be possible, you’ll just need to keep reading to find out! ;) 

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Friday + Weekend: Ahh, the weekend! It was such a gorgeous one here in Boston! We spent as much time as possible outside and managed to start both days with a great walk/run in our neighborhood. Below are some highlights as well as everywhere we ate which is noted in bold

Weekend Highlights! 

- Dinner at Viale in Cambridge on Friday night with Seth’s family celebrating his brother’s graduation! Many delicious dishes were consumed and much rejoicing occurred. 

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- I finally upgraded my iPhone! It feels so good to be current with my technology again and I’m loving my new yellow case for it. Thanks to all who sent in case suggestions!! Always appreciate your advice! It wasn’t the quickest process to move everything from the old phone to the new, but we are good to go now and I’m loving the new device. 

- Lunch on Saturday at Legal C Bar in Lynnfield where I found my new favorite lunch salad: avocado and crab! So, so good and giant! Highly recommend! Plus, I’m incapable of avoiding my other go-to at this restaurant which is their GF fried pickles. 😉 

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- Did anyone else catch the Belmont Stakes Saturday night?! What an exciting race! We enjoyed watching Justify get the triple-crown (well deserved!!) and toasted the win with rosé because it was national rosé day. Spent some quality time with my family as well since we are all major horse-racing fans. Just kidding. We actually only watch the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. When we remember. 😂

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-  Dinner Saturday night was at The Bancroft bar since we hadn’t been in a while and I just love it. It was delightfully not-too-crowded and we got seats right away! I kept it light with a seared scallop appetizer and an arugula salad. See a theme with salads, lately? 😬 But in order to avoid being too hungry by the time we got home, I opted for polenta fries as my “dessert.” Worked like a charm! 😉

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While Sundays are primarily prepping for the week - meal planning and grocery shopping - this one also included a sweet treat to toast seven years (!!) of knowing each other! Yup, Seth and I met way back in June 2011 and well, I had no idea back then that this is where we would be today. But, I’m pretty darn pleased with how it all worked out so you know, cheers to seven years!

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Appropriately, we went for a long walk and got a delightful summer sweet for the occasion: ice cream! I got a personal favorite, the brown cow (a frappe with vanilla ice cream and root beer), and Seth had coffee Oreo, another great option. Life is sweet. :)

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We hope you had a great weekend filled with delicious food, your favorite people, and maybe a horse race or two, too. ;) 

Eat, well. 

Mollie and Seth

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