Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XLVIII

Welcome to the forty-eighth Weeknight Dinner Recap! This week we are back from our seaside time in Maine (sadness) and it’s back to healthy-er eating. Salads a plenty and a variety of proteins filled the week’s meals as well as some new flavor discoveries that will definitely be returning to our plates. 

How is your summer going? I’m trying not to rush it along, but the weeks are busy and somehow time flies when you’re working and writing and finding time for fun in the sun. And our anniversary is coming up! I cannot wait. ☺️

So, let’s get to the dinners, shall we?  

Sunday’s Dish: Cod with almond crust, side of sautéed chard

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Source: Weeknight Gluten Free by Kristine Kidd

GFMD: Naturally gluten free! No changes required. 

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Outcome: After several days of throwing health to the wind, somewhat, we knew it was time to get back in the healthy mindset. And what better way to do that than with fish?!

Not just any fish, mind you, it was baked with an awesome nut-based crust and we paired it with quickly sautéed chard which had joyfully not gone bad while we were away. 

Now, the original recipe had a crust with pecans as the focus, but unfortunately it was hard to find pecans that were not processed in a facility containing wheat. So, we switched gears and used almonds instead, but didn’t change anything else. The result? A still-awesome and very simple crust for the fish, which I’d make again in a second.  

While I don’t always love simply prepared fish, the crust on this cod was scrumptious enough for me to forget that we were eating a somewhat unexciting total meal. Yes, I’m being honest.

A basic protein and veggie is fairly standard fare, but what made it more exciting was the fun almond crust with a slight hint of butter. If you scraped off the crust, then the fish would be kind of boring, baked fish. So the lesson here is to amp-up your dinner by adding fun flavors to your protein. This is not Earth-shattering news, but just a helpful reminder! :) 

And don’t forget your veggie! We chose chard because we had forgotten to eat it the week prior and it was joyfully still fresh when we got home from Maine. A quick sauté in the pan with sumac (you read that right) and a couple other spices and off we went to eat. 

This was a delicious, straight-forward meal to kick off the week and refocus on our more health-minded meals. I know you’re all missing the pasta and tacos, as am I, but we are trying to stay away from those for a little while. Join us on this healthier journey, won’t you?  

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Monday’s Dish: Asian-Style Shrimp, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad

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Source: Weeknight Gluten Free by Kristine Kidd 

GFMD: Make sure to use GF soy sauce! Otherwise, everything in the dish is naturally gluten free. 

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Outcome: I’ve never been one to be excited over the term “shrimp salad,” as I think it can conjure somewhat of a funky response. Two items I enjoy separately, and sometimes together (shrimp on a Caesar salad), but when shrimp is the primary ingredient, I don’t always jump in right away. Sounds silly and a bit overly-skeptical, don’t you think? I’m sure you do.

Thankfully, I dove into this recipe for a really hot summer night and am so glad I did. It was basically the best cold, shrimp-focused salad ever. I’m so bold! 😂

While the recipe instructed us to use cold + cooked shrimp, there wasn’t much other direction for them (hmmm). So, Seth decided to use the raw shrimp in the freezer and quickly cook them in the wok with a few of our favorite flavors, then chill them in the fridge while he prepped the rest of the dish. Bless him and this great idea that basically took a great meal and made it even better

I’m quite positive that by giving the shrimp a little oomph from the wok with a little garlic, ginger, GF soy sauce, and sesame oil, they made the dinner even more of a star.

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The other awesome elements were the fun heirloom tomatoes, and super crunchy cucumbers. Each main ingredient of the dish had a different texture which is possibly why I loved every individual bite so much. I loved stacking a little of everything on my fork because it resulted in one incredibly flavorful bite - I couldn’t get enough! 😬

Oh, and don’t forget about the chopped peanuts on top! We used salted “party peanuts” (best phrase) which made the dish even better as they gave a final crunchy, salty, non-cold element in each bite. Loved it. 

A little spicy, a smidge sweet, and a splash of salty, this dinner was so fresh and perfect for a hot summer night. We served it chilled as instructed, but sat at our table in our air conditioned apartment which was silly.

Next time we make it, and that definitely will happen, I think we will enjoy it outside to get the full “cold salad eaten while sweltering” experience. I think that will make it even better. 😉

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Tuesday’s Dish: Stir-Fried Tofu with Summer Squash, Basil, and Coconut

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Source: Dinner Changing the Game  by Melissa Clark

GFMD: As usual, make sure to use GF soy sauce. Otherwise, this dish is entirely gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian. Ta da! 

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Outcome: Are you aware of how delicious toasted coconut flakes can be? Maybe? No? Well, I’m pretty sure I had not had them before this meal and now I’m entirely sold. They were the final garnish of the dinner, but they sold the whole thing for me, and now I love them and want to use them in everything. 

This dinnner wasn’t as bright as that shrimp salad, or as basic as the fish and chard, but it offered something entirely new: crispy-edged tofu that had marinated in my favorite scents then combined with amazing summer veggies that had been stir-fried to joy-level.

When you put it all together on top of cauliflower rice, then sprinkle that toasty coconut all over, you’ve got yourself a mighty fine summer dinner that’s hearty, but not heavy. The ideal mix after a busy day, strong workout, and almost-there hanger. 😉

We also got to incorporate some of our balcony-grown basil in this dish which was so fun because it feels so satisfying. Sure, Seth’s the gardener and is making sure all of our cute herbs are thriving, but I’m considering myself a partial contributor because I’m not complaining about how much space they take up on our fairly small outdoor area. Just kidding. There’s plenty of space for the plants! Just not enough for a chaise. 

While enjoying this super-flavorful dinner, I realized you could easily substitute the tofu for chicken, beef, pork, or even maybe  seafood. I think the quick marinade would be delicious on any of those other proteins and would offer a new-ish version to this splendid combo.

Sure, we are really trying to mix it up every week, and I like the weekly tofu we seem to have developed, but I get excited by meals like this one that could be adapted in a small way (use chicken! Or beef?) to kind of create a whole new dinner. I guess that’s an element of recipe creation, which isn’t really our focus, but maybe it’s something to work on adding into our mix. Guess you’ll just need to wait and see! 😉

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Wednesday’s Dish: Chicories with Anchovy Breadcrumbs and Egg Yolk, Cumin Chicken Meatballs with Green Chile Sauce

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Source: Dining In by Alison Roman for the salad, Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark for the meatballs. 

GFMD: For both of these dishes you’ll need to use GF breadcrumbs instead of regular. Super easy! We use breadcrumbs by Aleia’s Gluten Free Foods, which is our favorite brand for them. Otherwise, these recipes are gluten free and ready to go. 

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Outcome: Nostalgia must have won me over when planning for this night because I selected two of my favorite recipes we’ve made this year! Usually, we aim for five new meals each week, but this one snuck in and I’m not mad about it at all. In fact, I’m overjoyed!

Sometimes my salad selections are great enough on their own, without needing any additional food to go alongside. However, after busy days and workouts, this meal especially needed the extra oomph. In the form of chicken meatballs, specifically.

First off, the salad is one of our favorites because of the great mix of bitter endive, pungent mustard-y dressing, and the salty-crunchy kick of those anchovy breadcrumbs, which I deem, forever, one of the best additions to salads and my morning scrambled eggs. I’m not even joking here. They are that good. And besides, salty and crunchy are my favorite food groups so you know, these breadcrumbs are naturally a (newly) permanent fixture in my life. 

Don’t forget about that egg yolk! Don’t scoff at adding it, raw, as the final element of your glorious salad. Put your nerves aside, throw it on, mix it all up with the leaves and breadcrumbs, and enjoy it’s presence and flavor amidst the bitter/salty/crunchy. I know you’ll love it.  

Have I mentioned I’m the newly-appointed meatball queen of our house? Well, let’s just say it’s a title I’m happily embracing because I always am in charge of making the meatballs and burgers when they’re on the meal plan. And by make I mean mix all of the freezing cold ingredients together with my bare hands and form the meatballs or burgers by hand, preparing them to be cooked by Seth.

Although with this dish, I handled the cooking too since these super-quick chicken meatballs, once formed and drizzled with olive oil on a sheet pan, just need about 7-9 minutes under the broiler! Then, ta da! Done. Chicken meatball madness can commence.

Madness because they’re so delicious you’ll barely be able to stop to breath because you’ll be inhaling them as fast as possible so that you get the same number as your dining  companion. 😬🙄 I swear this has never happened at our house. 😉

We loved this dinner for the awesome flavors and textures, the great pairing of two fabulous dishes, and the ease in which we can make some wonderful food gluten free with just the switch of one ingredient. Now, who wants a meatball? 

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Thursday’s Dish: Ratatouille with Crispy, Meaty Crumbs

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Source: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark

GFMD: Just make sure to use GF breadcrumbs! Otherwise it’s all gluten free! 

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Outcome: Let’s be honest with this dish: it wasn’t gorgeous. The colors all blended together and save for the red pepper and basil leaves, I was pretty disappointed by its overall look. However, I do think it was a delicious dinner, brown tones and all. Would I make a couple changes next time? Yes. 

We had not made a ratatouille in quite some time so I thought this would be a good one to include because of the reliable source, great ingredient list, and promise of “crunchy, meaty crumbs.”

What I didn’t realize was that the crunchy would only be from the breadcrumbs, the meaty part should only be lamb (we used turkey) and that the whole thing would not be hot by the time it was put on top of the slow-cooked veggies (ratatouille). But! I would not call our turkey decision an entire failure. I’d call it attempting to be healthy, but we should’ve just followed the recipe’s originally suggested lamb, which I prefer anyway. Whoops! 

This dinner had a lot of promise and I’d say it delivered exactly what it stated: ratatouille with breadcrumbs that had meat in them. Flavorful and fairly healthy, this dish was appropriate for our current mostly-healthy mindset (it’s summer, hello ice cream) but I think it somewhat fell short of the grand plate I had expected.

I have sky-high expectations for food these days, and I was a little disgruntled by the final product. Mostly due to us using turkey instead of lamb, a decision I was frustrated by and thought about for far too long afterward. I worry about a lot of topics and missteps in recipe selection is one of them.

Obviously, it could have gone much worse and well, this isn’t exactly a real problem. I’m thankful for that and thankful that it was actually pretty good. Seth loved it! I was the dinner guest that was the most bothered. 🤷‍♀️

I enjoyed the ease of the dinner and the final, basic arrangement of it, but I was slightly perturbed by it’s monotone appearance, and sad that we decided to use turkey when lamb would have (most likely) made a world of difference on the overall flavor.

Live and learn right? I need to relax. It’s just dinner. There’s always another one tomorrow. 😉 

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Friday + Weekend:  This was an exceptionally relaxing weekend filled with some yummy food, extra sleep, seeing friends, and an afternoon spent basking in the fact that we had nowhere to be and nothing pressing to do. Isn't that the best? I think so. Feeling the sun on my face and the calm breeze around me is an ultimate summer moment. 

 Ultimate relaxation. 

Ultimate relaxation. 

I'm learning to embrace those times when I have nothing urgent to do since they are pretty infrequent lately. But I'm not complaining! I'm just working on being even more present when I have the time to do absolutely nothing. Here are a few highlights of the weekend as well as the restaurants we visited (names are clickable!). 

Highlights

- On Saturday, I attended a shower celebrating a friend who is expecting her first baby next month! So happy for her and all of the excitement to come. A perk of the baby shower was that the host, another great friend, generously included gluten free food options amidst the vast array of goodies offered. How thoughtful!

Always appreciate the extra step of including food that's safe to eat for all of your guests - she's a terrific host. No detail was missed :)

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- After an early-ish dinner Saturday night, we started watching the latest season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Netflix. Have you seen it? Jerry Seinfeld is at it again with some great guests, snazzy cars, and a lot of caffeine. I love the ho-hum nature of this show when it's actually very, very big celebrities trying to have a normal conversation in a random coffee shop. Highly entertaining and relaxing all in one. 

- Sunday afternoon, after meal planning, before grocery shopping, we went for a short walk in the intense humidity and just spent time sitting on a park bench enjoying our surroundings. Nothing urgent to do or anywhere we had to go, I loved this time of literally doing nothing on a summer Sunday afternoon.

I think we all need to take time out to do "activities" like this more often. It felt great! I plan to incorporate a little more nothing into my weekends from now on (as appropriate, of course).  

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Bar Bites: To Go

Red Heat Tavern

Yes, we went back to this local spot for easy-eats and a relaxed setting. Comfort foods aplenty on this supremely gluten free menu - everything (except one menu item) can be prepared gluten free and safely! Music to my ears after a long week, for sure, as well as all of the other guests requiring a gluten free meal.

This night included their GF boneless buffalo wings, fried pickles, and a huge grilled chicken Caesar salad. We are usually too full for dessert, but one of these days I'll plan better so I can finally order the GF cookie skillet. ;)

The Bancroft

One of our favorite restaurants for their craft cocktails, excellent service, and scrumptious food, this Burlington-based spot offers a chic experience outside the city and many gluten free options. We usually grab bar seats and have a great time!

On this visit, I had a couple of their excellent side dishes (grilled asparagus and corn) plus my can't-resist favorite: polenta fries with truffle aioli. A must-order every time! :) So good, in fact, I forgot to snap a photo! 

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Bedford Farms Ice Cream

I didn't plan on having any dessert after dinner Saturday night, but the mood struck and I could not pass up the too-good-to-resist Bedford Farms ice cream. I highly recommend this longtime favorite ice cream shop for its high-quality product and safely GF flavors.

I opted for my classic chocolate chip and it was scooped from a fresh container with a freshly-washed scoop. Just delicious! A major weekend treat. :)

PS. Bedford Farms serves portions bigger than your head. I had a "kid size" which was plenty of ice cream. 

 Sunday evening I decided to bake muffins! Details coming soon... :)  

Sunday evening I decided to bake muffins! Details coming soon... :)  

We hope you had a relaxing weekend, too, filled with some great food and your favorite ways to enjoy the summer days. I can barely believe it's already mid-July! :)

Eat, well. 

Mollie and Seth

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