WDR: Salad Season

Note: all recipes, with their source, are listed at the end of this article in the Recipe Log. 

Welcome to Weeknight Dinner Recap! In this edition, we'll be exploring the vast world of...salad! That's right friends, we had salads for dinner all week long. And we survived. I know! How did we manage without a taco, pizza slice, or single bite of pasta?

Well, I'll tell you: we made salads with pizzazz. With protein. And with oomph. Because a salad for dinner, every night, is entirely possible. If you know the right salads to make. 😉 So, let's begin!

First, I'll start with a confession: we skipped dinner on Sunday. It's OK. I can hear your gasps. Let me explain, if you will. We had a very late (semi-indulgent) lunch, filled with seafood actually, and while we had every intention of digging into a bowl of greens later that evening, we were just too full!

So despite my meal plan notebook clearly stating the menu for Sunday night, we shoved it to Monday and had leftovers. More gasps. Because we never do that (I'm sorry if you're still in shock).

Sometimes all you need late on a Sunday night is a bowl of leftover, but still amazing, corn soup. It wasn't quite as pretty as this photo, but it tasted great. And that's what matters most when you're eating corn soup around 10pm on a Sunday night.

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For the record, I ate a few old and semi-stale potato chips after that soup. A bit of a mistake. Should've just stuck to the soup. I suppose the lesson here should be to never keep potato chips around so long that they get stale, but are still available, leaving you to find them in your cabinet post-soup-on-Sunday dinner. But I digress...

On Monday night, we got back on that salad track and I was all about it. The work day was good and I successfully survived my first running-based group fitness class. I won't bore you with the details, but just imagine sweating more than you ever thought possible, briefly feeling OK, then going back to sweating your life off. That was the class. Plus a lot of push-ups. If you couldn't tell, I'm working on working out more often and it's going swimmingly. A for effort, right?

Let's get back to dinner: I got home and we got to work on dinner. Thankfully, the Sunday-turned-Monday salad was super simple and we were eating in no time. That's the case though when your salad is just kale, feta, and Kalamata olives. Sounds simple, right? It was, but it was also weirdly satisfying in its uncomplicated, I-need-dinner-now sort of way.

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The recipe, Horta Salad with Feta and Olives, came from Melissa Clark's Dinner, which quickly became one of our go-to cookbooks this year because every single dinner we've made from it has been outstanding. I'm not kidding. I've recommended this book to everyone I know and I'll say it again: buy this book and you'll always have an awesome dinner idea/plan available.

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Sure, there's a lot available on the Internet, but I'd say this cookbook is one that really sprung us into the "have something different every night" mentality during the week. I love this book and we've loved all of the food that has made its way onto our table because of it. 

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Maybe I like to sweat a lot or maybe I just decided to go back for more exhaustion, but on Tuesday evening I did another round of that running class. This time it seemed even harder. Running up hill, like really running, will never be easy for me. But maybe by going to this class each week it will get slightly less heinous? Only time will tell.

What I do know is that I was walking fairly slowly that night and into Wednesday so I definitely got a real workout (no pain no gain, right? maybe?).

That workout left me ravenous so I knew we needed a big dish to calm my cravings and allow me to forget about my legs being quite sore. What's Gaby Cooking to the rescue!

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We've come to adore this cookbook too because it's jam-packed with delicious dishes for all of your dinnertime needs. Specifically, the salad section which we've had tremendous luck with as of late.

Tuesday, usually reserved for tacos, has been reclaimed by the Summer Chipotle Chicken Cobb which was a knockout dinner. Packed with chicken, avocado, bacon, strawberries, and corn, it screamed summer with every bite and was just so pretty!

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I had never eaten bacon and a strawberry in the same bite, and well, what was I thinking? This is a delicious combination. And the avocado, sliced so nicely, was a perfect creamy component. Every bite scrumptious, bright, and different, we loved the various textures and flavors melding together for one awesome dish.

I'm sad that after summer has passed this salad won't exactly be as fresh (summer is corn and berry season after all), but I'm glad to know it's an option for as soon as the warmth returns. But I'm getting ahead of myself - it's still August! ;) Bottom line: make this salad and swoon over summer just a little longer. 

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We've made it to Wednesday and I forgot to tell you: it's almost my birthday! And with the upcoming goodness on the weekend, we've been pushing the health, fitness, and everything that's good for us because I will definitely indulge on the big B-day itself.

It's not an especially exciting birthday, number-wise, but I've always loved a party and birthdays are the best excuse to celebrate and eat cake. So that's what will be happening, but stay tuned just in case we swerve to the left and make a pie. ;)

After a busy workday and a workout that lacked cardio, but emphasized strength, I still came home afterward and was absurdly hungry. Another salad for us!

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Let me tell you, even on Wednesday night, third night in a row of greens, I wasn't even upset! For when you're doing a full week of the same category of meals, variety is of utmost importance. And we achieve that variety through different proteins and interesting add-ons.

Welcome to the show Chopped Dinner Salad with Crispy Chickpeas! From my first bite to last I was enamored by the meal and so thrilled that something with such easy ingredients could deliver such "omg this is fabulous" results. Can you tell I was really excited? 

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It reminded me of a way better version of a salad that you order at some average chain restaurant in that it was fairly straightforward, but had a few pops of fun to make it anything but “chain food” (chickpeas and feta).

But wait! Don’t get discouraged. I'm not saying this was a cheap, ho-hum salad. Not even close. I'm saying it reminded me of a salad you always wish you could order at said chain restaurant or average salad spot during lunch hour. Thankfully the salad itself was a superstar of weeknight options.

I'd classify this salad as a basic beauty that's filled with surprises. I'd say the key elements were the high-quality feta, which added an amazing creamy bite and freshly grilled chicken (not a rotisserie) that was seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, and olive oil.  Seth's choice of seasoning was perfect and really enhanced the overall dish. Plus those crispy chickpeas on top were the best garnish. 😉

This salad definitely made its way onto the "will definitely make again" list that exists solely in my brain and really needs to be formed on paper. Once again, the recipe is by Claire Saffitz, who has never steered us wrong. Her recipes are always incredible, easy to follow, and introduce us to flavor combos I now crave daily.

Take this salad, for example, as one of her many triumphant recipes available online: I loved the ingredients, the super-yummy dressing, and the overall flavor: delicious with pops of cheese and chickpea. I think I've found the title of my first book. ;)

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Once Thursday rolls around, I’m pretty much game for the weekend and my ability to stay on track with our dinner plans can sometimes veer off course. However, despite half of me eager to start my birthday weekend extra-early, and the other half firmly  planted in the land of being reasonable, I admit the reason side won and we cooked. I wasn’t disappointed - mostly - and I wasn’t at all once we were eating! 

For round four of Salad Spectacular, we went an all-veggie route and landed on a bowl of greens that actually turned out to be vegan. I never plan meals to be vegan or vegetarian on purpose, but when they happen to be so, I always stop to recognize how delicious truly-meatless meals can be.

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We incorporate them about once a week, usually, and we’re always pleasantly surprised. I love a great steak, but I do enjoy dishes on the opposite end of the spectrum as well. I think that’s called balance. 😉  

The dish was a delicious mix of charred corn and yellow peppers, charred on the stove top and in the oven, respectively, and then tossed with greens and an amazing spicy turmeric dressing. Oh man, was that dressing delicious!

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Homemade salad dressings are my favorite, by the way. And so easy! Toss a bunch of ingredients in the blender, blast it for a bit, and then voilá! Salad dressing that’s healthier and cleaner than a lot of grocery store options. I understand it’s not always possible to make it yourself, but try it once and I’m sure you’ll be hooked!

This meal, Yellow Pepper and Corn Salad with Turmeric Dressing, recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, was bright and spicy and quickly reminded me that turmeric needs to be in our meals way more often. It’s so yummy!! And not only is the color fabulous, but it’s very good for you, too. What a great blend! 

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We love Ottolenghi recipes although I don’t reach for his excellent book, Jerusalem, nearly often enough. We’ve made a few items from it, all incredible, but sometimes not the quickest for a weeknight.

On the flip side, this salad was approachable, beautiful, and was delightfully quick for our Thursday night we-need-food-now mindset. But here’s one final thought: I loved this salad on its own, but I dare say it would pair perfectly with medium-rare filet. 😎 

Cheers to my birthday weekend!

Friday finally arrived and so began a few glorious days of fun and my favorite foods! Here are a few highlights of the merriment and delicious meals we ate along the way! All birthdays should include multiple days of eating wonderful food! Don’t you agree?

 Late-summer hydrangeas. ☺️ 

Late-summer hydrangeas. ☺️ 

- Friday night dinner with Seth at The Bristol at the Four Seasons Hotel was a perfect way to kickoff the weekend’s festivities. Incredible food, delicious drinks, and one of our favorite bars in the city, this spot has countless memories associated with it for me.

 Gluten free mini chocolate cakes! Most delicious chocolate dessert ever. 

Gluten free mini chocolate cakes! Most delicious chocolate dessert ever. 

One special memory in particular? We got engaged moments after having a surprise lunch here back in 2015. ☺️ For the record, their GF options are endless and there’s even scrumptious dessert (as shown above)! 

 Heavenly GF crab and corn hushpuppies. Unreal.  

Heavenly GF crab and corn hushpuppies. Unreal.  

 Seared halibut over jambalaya with andouille sausage. I licked the plate clean.  

Seared halibut over jambalaya with andouille sausage. I licked the plate clean.  

- Saturday lunch at Border Cafe for a relaxed, easy meal amidst the various downpours of the day. While the GF options aren’t vast, I can have the tortilla chips, guacamole, and blackened chicken fingers so I’m always a happy camper.

Oh, and their swordfish tacos with corn tortillas are a great choice, too! Because it was my birthday weekend, I also had a midday margarita. 😎🎉

 The decor at Border is always stimulating. Personally, I love this neon alligator. 😎 

The decor at Border is always stimulating. Personally, I love this neon alligator. 😎 

- And because we couldn’t stop going out to eat, we went to Legal Sea Foods Saturday night! Birthday-mindset in full, I ordered my tried-and-true, it’s-my-birthday dinner: a big plate of fried clams and a side of sautéed kale. I like to balance my meals and kale seemed like the best way to offset (balance?!) those clams.

Every bite was delicious and #worthit. While not the healthiest dinner ever, my indulgence meter was off the charts and I was thoroughly enjoying every second of my meal. 

 Fried clams on Saturday night: Birthday-eve awesome.  

Fried clams on Saturday night: Birthday-eve awesome.  

- Sunday! My actual birthday! Joy, fun, and beautiful weather abound which is all I could ever ask for on that day. Somehow the skies cleared, the humidity vanished, and we had a fantastic summer day. If it’s too cliché, or silly, who cares, I felt so #lucky. 

 My general mindset for all birthdays and celebrations depicted quite nicely on these napkins. 

My general mindset for all birthdays and celebrations depicted quite nicely on these napkins. 

We had a low-key family gathering in the afternoon including a homemade GF cheesecake (recipe by Joanne  Chang, easily made GF) by my mom, my birthday was exactly how I like it: relaxing with my family and having delicious, gluten free food.

A most-excellent way to ring in my 33rd year, indeed!

 Double 33s on the cheesecake for extra good luck. This year is going to rock. 🎉

Double 33s on the cheesecake for extra good luck. This year is going to rock. 🎉

Now that I’m really, truly an adult (or have been for a while?), I received a set of awesome, new measuring spoons and cups as gifts. Much baking is in my future. And I can’t wait. 😉

Thank you so much for all of your kind words and messages as my birthday approached! I had an amazing weekend and look forward to what will be a pretty fantastic year. 

 The most appropriate card ever, from our cat. How did she know how to pick the perfect card? 😉

The most appropriate card ever, from our cat. How did she know how to pick the perfect card? 😉

We hope you had a great week and weekend! I can’t believe we’re halfway through August, but I’m starting to accept it. Fall is a beautiful season filled with all kinds of fun, and incredible food.

Eat, well.  

Mollie and Seth

 Hooray for 33! :)  

Hooray for 33! :)  

Recipe Log

Cookbook titles are clickable!

Horta Salad with Feta and Olives: Recipe by Melissa Clark, available in Dinner Changing the Game

Summer Chipotle Chicken Cobb: Recipe by Gaby Dalkin, available in What's Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food

Chopped Dinner Salad with Crispy Chickpeas: Recipe by Claire Saffitz, available in Bon Appetit online, here!

Yellow Pepper and Corn Salad with Turmeric Dressing: Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, available in Bon Appetit online, here!

 The brightest birthday roses. :)

The brightest birthday roses. :)