Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XLVII

Welcome to the forty-seventh weeknight dinner recap! While this week started with a few delicious homemade dinners, it ended in Maine! That’s right, we cooked through Tuesday, then hit the road for our annual 4th of July days-off-from-everything in favor of soaking up the sun and eating local seafood and more up north in Southern Maine.

So, instead of a full week of reviewed meals, the second half of this recap will be a longer edition of Bar Bites: To Go and will cover everywhere we ate during our days by the sea. Restaurant names will be clickable to bring you right to their website. 

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Lets get to the food, shall we?  

Sunday’s Dish: Homemade basil pesto with shrimp and zucchini and summer squash noodles. 

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Source: Our own recipe! 

GFMD: Naturally gluten free and all natural! Just the best! 

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Outcome: With summer simmering along, it was about time to finally use some of the massive basil bounty we have gotten from our balcony plant. And what better use of it than to make our favorite basil pesto?! We barely had to think with this one. 😉

My love for basil pesto as a marinade for shrimp runs deep. Paired with fresh summer squash spiralized into noodles and sautéed with fresh tomatoes, you’ve got yourself one delightful, fresh, and resourceful meal. We love using in-season produce any time of year, but summertime is best for our favored zucchini, squash, and the wonderous basil. 

Seth’s homemade version of pesto includes extra garlic, heavy basil, and a joy-filled amount of Parmesan to create something that I find so delicious I barely can wait for it to be ready before a I grab a spoonful fresh from the blender. Yum!

I love using shrimp for this dinner because it makes it light and flavorful, and also a bit more special. Sure, we could use chicken or another more standard protein, but I love shrimp specifically for the “fun” factor.

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Shrimp and veggies and pesto all together feels fancier to me and transports us to summery settings far from our dinner table. While I love eating at home, I do appreciate any dish that can simulate the feeling of being far away on vacation. 😎

For the record, we have done this meal previously with pasta (yasss) instead of veggies, and with larger shrimp. This time around we decided to switch it up and I’m so glad we did!

Taking a favorite flavor such as pesto and incorporating it with ingredients that are a little more exciting and seasonal (than basic pasta and chicken) takes an average weeknight dinner to a whole new level of delicious and joyful. And that’s the best. :)

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Monday’s Dish: Sausage-stuffed cherry peppers with a beet greens salad 

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Source: We planned without a recipe, but researched a bit online to make sure we got the cooking time correct. We referenced recipes found on allrecipes.com and foodnetwork.com. 

GFMD: Naturally gluten free! How joyful! There was no need for anything that could contain gluten in this one so it was all naturally good-to-go! Just make sure the sausages you purchase are safe as well. We used Hot Italian Sausage by Pig Rock Sausages, a local Boston-based company. 

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Outcome: Sometimes my dinner cravings are fairly random and sometimes they are rooted in dishes I’ve had in restaurants far from home. This dish was a recreation of one we enjoy often at a restaurant in Maine where the atmosphere is chill and the food is hot and yummy.

Randomly, while grocery shopping, I decided we must make these peppers for dinner. See? Craving out of nowhere. However, given we went to Maine later in the week and actually went to the restaurant where this dish is available, perhaps it wasn't such a random craving after all. :)

Now, it seems there are handful of variations on the preparation of this meal so we reviewed a few of them and chose the best-sounding elements. We pre-broiled the cherry peppers to soften them somewhat, then filled them (once cooled) with an Italian sausage, mozzarella, and spices mixture, then topped with a little more mozzarella before being baked (not broiled) for about twelve minutes.

The result is a cute little pepper filled with a scrumptious, slightly spicy + meaty filling that requires a fork and knife, but honestly, if you didn't bother, I wouldn't tell anyone. ;)

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We had extra filling available so we turned it into two, mini sausage sliders to have on the side with our peppers. The crispy sides of the slider were absurdly delicious. ;) As for the stuffed cherry peppers? We loved them and enjoyed their fun, lighthearted nature. They seem a bit more like appetizers-for-dinner, but I think that's a great way to switch up your weeknight meals: make something that is more often viewed as a "starter," but have a few more than usual and you've got yourself a dinner. ;) Served with a beet greens salad and you have a complete meal. Fun and filling, all in one. :)

PS: Stuffed cherry peppers are an appetizer you can order at Cornerstone in Ogunquit, Maine. Full details below!

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Tuesday’s Dish: Shroomy Cheeseburgers with Maple Thyme Caramelized Onions, served over beet greens 

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Source: Recipe is by Erin Fairbanks and can be found in Cherry Bombe the Cookbook

GFMD: Without using a bun, this entire recipe is gluten free! Of course, make sure to check labels on any sauces to ensure they are marked GF. And we might use a gluten free bun next time, but opted out for this instance.

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Outcome: To kick off the 4th of July holiday and a handful of days off, we decided to make a summertime classic: burgers! Now, we have made this version before, but once again altered the recipe slightly by enhancing them with our own twist.

And for the sake of health (kinda?), we decided to skip buns altogether and serve the burgers over a bed of beet greens (yes, same decision as the night prior). We don't like to waste food! 

These burgers are a blend of beef and Crimini mushrooms that give an incredible flavor once cooked. We had not included grated mushrooms in our burger meat before, but we're hooked! It adds an awesome, different flavor that you wouldn't necessarily get from topping the meat with mushrooms instead.

Well, I suppose you might, but that's not what we did for this version. You, on the other hand, might skip grating them and just put them on top, but I'd recommend this option. :)

Topped with cheddar and maple thyme caramelized onions (omg this takes time but it's so, so worth it), we decided to add in sun dried tomatoes, which are delicious but kind of competed flavor-wise with the onions. A bit of an "oops," which I take credit for, I got too excited when deciding what to put on the burger.

Next time, we will only use these onions since their flavor is quite perfect and they do not need anything else. Those sun dried tomatoes can stay on the side, or in the salad, or off the plate completely and eaten as a pre-dinner snack. They're one of my favorites. :)

Since there was no bun to be found (or just not included) we placed each burger on a fan of sliced avocado and homemade garlic aioli. Yup. Seth made aioli from scratch and it was delicious! But the recipes made a large amount.

If you're wondering how much aioli we had for these burgers, then I'll just say this: we easily had enough aioli for a dozen burgers and to act as a french fry dipping sauce. Get it? It was a lot of aioli. 

My final thoughts on this burger: scrumptious as expected, minus a couple missteps (add bun, lose the tomatoes), but overall a great, easy dinner that fit well with our week. Burgers are prevalent this time of year so when we choose to make them they need to have a lot of pizzazz in the form of meat flavor and interesting toppings.

This mushroom-filled cheddar burger topped with decadent caramelized onions fit the bill exactly for this 4th of July kickoff. 

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Wednesday - Sunday: Maine! 

Home base for our Maine trips is in Ogunquit and that makes it easy to walk to a number of great restaurants (and the beach) with outdoor seating and ocean views, which is pretty much my goal for every meal. There are other spots outside of Ogunquit we frequent, and their locations are noted. 

The list below covers everywhere we went during this trip and includes a few more spots that I’ve gone to many times, but simply didn’t make it to during this visit (including the best candy!). As always, I deem every spot listed safe for those with Celiac based on my personal experience living with Celiac Disease. Just remember: I am not a doctor and am not offering any medical advice. 

Trust your gut and if you don’t feel comfortable eating somewhere that isn’t entirely GF, or if you are extremely nervous around shared prep areas, then by all means skip it! These are places I’ve been to and have felt well afterward, but that doesn’t mean (unfortunately) that it would be the same for everyone. 

There are many, many more terrific places to dine out in Maine so feel free to let me know of others I have missed, but need to visit!

Bar Bites: To Go

Southern Maine Edition

 Perkins Cove.

Perkins Cove.

Restaurants

Amore Breakfast - Ogunquit

Can you say gluten free waffle without smiling?! I cannot. So thankful for the return of this charming breakfast spot located on the edge of Ogunquit village serving all of the breakfast classics with the majority being able to be prepared gluten free! 

They take allergies seriously and especially the needs of those of us requiring a gluten free meal. I love to order one of the great omelette options with a side of a GF bacon waffle. It’s a decadent order and clearly says “vacation mode,” but I am unable to resist.

It’s family-friendly and can get very busy, so we usually try to arrive fairly early as part of a morning walk. Can you tell we just walk and eat, walk and eat, while we are in Maine?  😋

 Amore coffee mug. :)

Amore coffee mug. :)

Backyard Coffeehouse and Eatery - Ogunquit

A relative newcomer to the Ogunquit village breakfast scene, this quick spot has great coffee, cold drinks, and even a GF breakfast sandwich! Mention your dietary restriction when ordering and they make sure to keep it safely covered in foil and away from the gluten when cooking.  

The GF options are limited, but I also saw pre-packaged gluten free goodies available. Seth and I like this casual cafe for the high-quality caffeine and extremely convenient location. Their hours are limited so only drop by for breakfast or an early lunch! 

 GF breakfast sandwich and iced coffee. :)

GF breakfast sandwich and iced coffee. :)

Barnacle Billy's - Perkins Cove, Ogunquit

A Perkins Cove landmark that’s been serving the classics for decades, head to this charming, casual restaurant (or its slightly-more-formal location next door), for incredible Cove views, yummy seafood, and a cold beverage.

We love going to Barnacle Billy’s deck after a walk along the scenic Marginal Way and having the easiest meal ever: grilled hot dogs and potato chips. Clearly, lobster in all forms is available, but for me, nothing beats a (bun-less) grilled hot dog in the sunshine. That’s been my order for about twenty-five years! 😎 Note: the lobster bisque is gluten free and most of their menu can be adapted to be GF! 

Spending hours on this deck embracing summer, briefly disconnecting from real life,  is a pastime I look forward to every single time we head to Maine. 

 The view from the Barnacle Billy's deck. 

The view from the Barnacle Billy's deck. 

 My order always includes a bun-less hot dog, and this time I added a crab roll (no roll). 

My order always includes a bun-less hot dog, and this time I added a crab roll (no roll). 

Cornerstone - Ogunquit

Remember those stuffed peppers we made earlier in the week? We made them at home because we usually eat them here! One of our favorite appetizers at this relaxed, family-friendly restaurant located in the center of Ogunquit village, the primary fare is pizza and an extensive beer list, but lucky for me they have GF crusts and a wine list, too.

A great menu with fun appetizers, salads, and main dishes, order a gluten free pizza with the warning that it’s a shared oven and prep area (GF crust go on special pans) so use your best judgement.

I have eaten the GF pizza and felt fine, but I only order them when it doesn’t seem too busy (still very risky, I admit). Their salads are terrific too, which is convenient if you’re feeling like a lighter meal (and prefer to skip the potential pizza issues).

In general, a casual spot to grab easy food and a drink that’s open midday through later-hours dinner. It’s packed at prime time so expect a wait! Or, grab bar seats. ;)

 GF Maine shrimp pizza.  

GF Maine shrimp pizza.  

 View along the Marginal Way which will bring you to Perkins Cove in Ogunquit.

View along the Marginal Way which will bring you to Perkins Cove in Ogunquit.

Joshua's - Wells

An incredible experience from first moment to last, this special-occasion or living-your-best-life restaurant has exceptional food and service. While I wrote a full review of Joshua’s last summer (find it here), I’ll make this statement again: it’s just fabulous.

The attentive staff is extremely helpful when determining gluten free options, but the best part is that the majority of the menu is naturally gluten free! And much of their produce comes right from their own garden located mere feet from the restaurant’s entrance.

Ultra-local, fresh, and oh-so-awesome, we can barely head up to Maine without a visit to this wonderful spot in Wells. Hint: their homemade ice cream is the best. Ever

 The scallop special at Joshua's. Amazing. 

The scallop special at Joshua's. Amazing. 

Lobster Shack - Perkins Cove, Ogunquit

A no-frills, full-of-yum restaurant that serves lobsters, giant lobster rolls, and delicious chowder and bisque, this is one place my family has literally been going to for decades.

A summertime favorite in Perkins Cove, there is often a line of people waiting to get in around the block. But it's worth it! Order your lobster roll minus the bun, or an entire freshly-boiled lobster (whatever size you want!) plus an ear of corn and relax.

I love the small menu, fresh seafood, and that I can have my childhood favorite (a grilled, bunless hot dog) alongside my new favorites: lobster bisque and a bun-less lobster roll all in the same day. Hint: go for lunch and dinner in the same day. ;)

 His and hers lobster rolls at Lobster Shack (mine is in the foreground). 

His and hers lobster rolls at Lobster Shack (mine is in the foreground). 

Mabel's Lobster Claw Restaurant - Kennebunkport

A longtime favorite of locals, tourists, and celebrities alike, this lobster-focused roadside eatery is a destination and must-visit if you're in this sweet town. We walked by on our trip, but didn't have time to pop in since there's often a wait for the prized outdoor seating.

Gluten free options are somewhat limited, but I'd say go for the best: order lobster! I've eaten here several times and have enjoyed the freshest seafood in this fun, relaxed atmosphere. The servers are friendly + helpful; plus, it doesn't hurt that there is a beautiful, ocean-lined walk just up the street for a post-dinner (or lunch) stroll. 

 Kennebunkport.

Kennebunkport.

Roost Cafe and Bistro - Ogunquit

A quaint, unassuming rustic house is home to this terrific breakfast/brunch and dinner restaurant. I learned about it from another blogger and have been wanting to go ever since. What a treat! The gluten free breakfast options are endless and my GF meal was served on a different style plate than Seth's non-GF choice to keep it clear which was gluten free.

We went two days in a row for breakfast and I loved it both times! Awesome omelettes, GF pancakes, and so many other meals I cannot wait to try. I had eggs both days and pancakes because a great gluten free pancake, in a restaurant, is pretty rare. So, I indulged! Worth. Every. Bite. :)

Note: they have a great bar as well which we look forward to visiting on our next trip. 

 Breakfast at Roost - GF pancakes!!

Breakfast at Roost - GF pancakes!!

So Zap - Ogunquit 

A new-to-us Thai restaurant (it's been here for many years) located on the edge of Ogunquit village, this "Urban Thai Kitchen" offers all of the classic Thai dishes you love in a relaxed, upbeat atmosphere.

All gluten free options are clearly marked "GF" and many others are available to be made that way - just ask! We loved sitting on their outdoor porch with a cool breeze and lots of really delicious food (and Thai iced tea!). I thoroughly enjoyed the green curry with shrimp and Seth loved the pad thai with chicken. We can't wait to go back!

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360 Lounge - Anchorage by the Sea in Ogunquit 

A perfect place for cocktails and lunch, or dinner, with breathtaking ocean views from every seat. This spot is located within an oceanfront resort, but is not off-limits to non-resort guests - lucky for us! We frequent this bar/lounge for midday drinks and snacks, and love that the gluten free options are marked, but also plentiful.

While the fried options are not possible, GF buns and wraps are noted for Maine favorites like the lobster roll or my new go-to, the spicy shrimp wrap! The view is the best and if you're lucky enough to grab one of the lounge tables and comfy seats facing the ocean, make sure you stay the rest of the day! ;)

 The view from 360. :)

The view from 360. :)

Sweets

Harbor Candy Shop

The best, in my opinion, chocolate around, this candy store has been offering homemade candies and treats since 1956! Joyfully, it’s all gluten free (except a few options).

Hands-down the best dark chocolate almond bark I’ve ever eaten, this candy shop smells like happiness upon entering. We love buying a box of assorted favorites since there are so many choices, but the hardest part is not eating it all in one day. 😬

We’ve been visiting this shop my entire life and every time I go inside to stare at the homemade candy behind the glass displays I feel like a little kid again (in a candy store). 

Perkins Cove Candies

Another great candy shop, located in Perkins Cove, which has homemade sweets, delicious fudge, and even a wide variety of “penny candy,” which is sadly, no longer costing a penny. I love going here for a piece of fudge or an individual Reese’s cup (25 cents) to enjoy while strolling the Cove after dinner.

Fun fact: this shop used to sell popcorn that was pretty much "movie style" in that you could have that fake butter drizzled all over it. Deemed a prize beyond words in my eyes (when I was five), this popcorn was a major treat that my parents would get for me after the very long walk to the Cove from the village (the walk is not that far for adults). 

Buyer beware: it’s cash only!

Rococo Ice Cream

How could I make a list of my Maine favorites and not include a spot solely for ice cream? This new-to-town shop has inventive flavors, friendly staff, and majority of flavors are gluten free. Make sure to tell them about your gluten free requirement and the scoopers will get yours from a brand-new tub.   

The ice cream flavors are delicious and different, but my tried-and-true will always be the salty sweet cream: an amped up vanilla-ish flavor that has a salty kick in each bite. Surprisingly awesome and I can’t ever resist it! Fun fact: the great staff will let you sample as many flavors as you’d like! And there are GF cones. 😎

 Don't you just love summer?

Don't you just love summer?

 Main beach in Ogunquit.

Main beach in Ogunquit.

We hope you had a wonderful 4th of July and got to enjoy some well-deserved time off! There was an intense heat wave covering the Northeast for much of the week so by the time it went away on Saturday, we couldn't get enough of the incredible, non-humid air and warm, joyful sunshine.

Here's to a terrific summer that has just begun and many more wonderful meals (at home and away) to come!

Eat, well. 

Mollie and Seth

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 Sunset on July 4th was pretty nice considering the blazing heat that day...

Sunset on July 4th was pretty nice considering the blazing heat that day...

 Seth took this photo. :)

Seth took this photo. :)