Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XXXV
Welcome to the thirty-fifth edition of Weeknight Dinner Recap! And we may as well say it up front: this was one of the greenest weeks of meals we've ever had! Veggies aplenty is a common goal, but this bunch really stood out in its prominence of healthy choices mixed with some truly exceptional flavors.
Yes, there was an outlier of the pack since we had a joyous Pasta Tuesday, but that's the touch of reality we like to weave into our dinner plans. We arrange our weeks with the best of intentions: make what we like and make what we want. So when that leaves us with a week of mostly veggie-focused meals with a pasta interlude, we ebrace it and enjoy! Isn't that the point of dinnertime anyway? Enjoy your life and enjoy your food! :)
Let's get to the dinners, shall we? All this talk of veggies and pasta and wellness is making me hungry!
Sunday’s Dish: Red coconut curry with chicken, mushrooms, and snow peas
Recipe: The recipe was adapted from one in Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark
GFMD: What joy! This dinner is completely, naturally gluten free!
Outcome: Something that we have been working on lately, and I've mentioned this before, is the manner in which we adapt recipes we love and/or want to love (e.g., new recipes we choose to adjust). For this dinner, it originally called for tofu and we simply didn't feel like tofu that night. So we easily adjusted, used chicken instead, and came out with a slightly-different version of a fantastic recipe from one of our favorite books, Dinner.
The result? A more "us" dinner that suited our tastebuds without compromising on the recipe. Last week I mentioned not being a big fan of change, and that definitely applies to recipes, but I'm working on it! Changes including swapping out the kind of protein featured is one that I'm always OK with since, well, my cravings change often!
What I loved about this meal was the melding of ingredients to create such a delicious, warm, and inviting curry. Surprisingly, the original recipe had cherry tomatoes and green beans in the title, but they were nowhere to be found in the ingredient list or preparation steps. Oops! So we skipped them, obviously, but decided to include snow peas to add some green to the bowl.
One note on the flavor: another curry recipe from this same book calls for daikon and basil, but this dish did not include either of those. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I still loved this meal without those staple flavors. Yes, it tasted a bit different than other red curries we've made, but it still packed a great punch of flavor that we will definitely make again.
Oh, are you wondering how I got that rice into such a nice, round ball? Easy trick: fill your favorite small bowl with rice, pack it fairly tightly, and then flip upside down on your plate. Voila! A perfect rice dome for your dinner. :)
Monday’s Dish: Garlic-Chile Chicken with Cucumbers and Green Ginger Sauce
Recipe: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark.
GFMD: Just make sure to use GF soy sauce (Tamari), but otherwise this dish is naturally gluten free! We made it as written; we doubled the sauce that cooks the chicken since we had more than one pound, and I decided to add extra sauce to the cucumbers, too. I sprinkled a little more of everything on the list onto them to give extra flavor and spice. Very good decision.
Outcome: Another rice bowl with a few surprises along the way! This time around our dinner was filled with perfectly poached chicken, scrumptious sliced cucumbers, and a tangy sauce that really enhanced every single bite. Brown rice as the base and chopped scallions on top to round it out. Oh, it was nice and green! Of course! :)
While we don't tend to poach chicken very often, I think we should because it is always so delicious and perfectly cooked! And I'm always surprised! Cooking the chicken in a spicy/salty broth left it filled with flavor, but we were also able to use the liquid to season the rice afterward which was a real treat. I'm certain we will use this cooking method for chicken again - have you tried it?
The best part of this meal (perfect chicken aside) were the awesome cucumbers and the yummy-as-ever sauce that we made for them (as instructed by the recipe). I loved the combination of chile-garlic sauce, sesame oil, Asian fish sauce, and a little salt - this mixture made for one heck of an awesome sauce for coating these cucumbers.
So delicious that I snacked on them while we waited for the rest of the meal to be done, and as you can see from the photos, they filled the majority of my bowl! Yes, all photos in these recaps are of my actual dinner! Minutes later, the bowl was empty! ;)
Tuesday’s Dish: Fettuccine With Spicy Anchovy Breadcrumbs
Recipe: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark
GFMD: Clearly, we did not use fettuccine for this meal, but we did use gluten free elbow pasta! In another instance, we may try another shape for this dish, but I thought the elbows were pretty perfect for it (Jovial Foods brand). We also used GF panko breadcrumbs from Aleia's Artisan Foods. Highly recommend these as they're great for any recipe that calls for Panko.
On its own, this meal did not include meat, but we decided to add in chicken sausage from Pig Rock Sausages for extra protein and flavor. That's a frequent theme around here - add meat for extra protein! But that's just our style: more is better and more can often mean better flavor for the final dish.
Understandably, you may opt to leave out the chicken sausage, and that's fine! I like to explain why we do what we do, but always encourage making dinner however makes you happiest. It is dinnertime, after all! The best time. ;)
Outcome: For a dinner I expected to be good, but not necessarily overwhelmingly exciting, I was thrilled that it was actually awesome! Lots of different textures really made this meal stand out and considering we added it as a quick-night selection, we were so happy with the way-better-than-average results.
Cooking the anchovies in garlic and butter was no accident here and once that got combined with the toasted breadcrumbs (Panko), the flavor was incredible. Add to that the browning chicken sausage and you have some amazing components to toss with the pasta. Again, this was not a very complicated meal, but it did have all of the necessary pieces to make one yummy, comfort-food-dinner after a busy day.
Sure, this wasn't the greenest of our meals this week, but it did succeed in its required role: be a delicious, easy, and flavor-packed dinner that was filling and had us getting up for seconds. Sometimes the simplest of meals can be the most satisfying and I have come to appreciate that more and more in the last few years.
To me, amazing food is about my favorite flavors/ingredients being prepared impeccably well. I do appreciate and understand the appeal of those less-common/fancier ingredients and stellar preparations, but I admit that a perfectly cooked version of my favorite anything will always be what I want the most. And, you know, it needs to be gluten free. ;)
Wednesday’s Dish: Spicy Silky Tofu
Recipe: Myers and Chang at Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz
GFMD: As with most of the Asian meals we make, just be sure to use GF soy sauce and not regular. Otherwise, this meal is naturally gluten free. Always check labels on sauces and seasonings, everyone! Safety first. :)
Outcome: What a treat this dinner turned out to be! Opting to leave in the tofu and make the dish as written, I was excited for my first at-home tofu experience. My thoughts? Delicious! And what a great balanace of flavor, too. Tofu, ground pork, bok choy, kimchi, whick were all stir-fried together in our wok, made for an amazing dinner that once again proved why we love this restaurant, and its cookbook chock full of dinner-recipe-dreams, so darn much.
A very green meal with the bok choy taking center stage, my favorite components were the tofu, ground pork, and kimchi. Yes, I love bok choy, but if we make this again, which we will, we may chop it up a bit before cooking. The large pieces were a little unwieldy when trying to take a bite that included all of the elements (that's my style!). However, leaving it whole was much more eye-catching. ;)
This dish encompassed one of our favorite methods of Asian-style cooking: cooking a lot of ingredients together in the wok! I love how the flavors blended together, the textures complimented one another, and the end result was a meal I could easily serve to a crowd or have for dinner and leftovers.
What I'm trying to say is this: we love versatility on our dinner plates! Meals that will taste great no matter when you eat them and would be a great option for a dinner party. Given that a lot of friends and family are asking to come over for dinner lately, I'm glad we have a lot of strong options for the menu! This one, in particular, included. :)
Thursday’s Dish: The Green Monster
Recipe: Myers and Chang at Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz
GFMD: The original recipe calls for farro as the grain base, but obviously that’s not gluten free! So, we simply used brown rice instead which may have altered the final flavor slightly, but that’s a small consequence to making this incredible meal easily at home. Otherwise, just remember to use GF soy sauce and you’re good to go! As written, the recipe is both vegetarian and vegan.
Outcome: What a delicious, healthy dinner! To cap the greenest set of meals we’ve had in a while we chose another standout dish from our favorite, Myers + Chang in Boston.
Filled with veggies, brown rice, and an insanely good lemongrass-pistachio pesto, this meal made me feel like I was getting healthier with every bite. Of course, we try for a balanced diet overall and don’t indulge too much during the week, but this dinner in particular screamed, “Look at you! You’re being healthy! You’re eating so much green goodness! Congratulations!” And I’ll take that feeling whenever I can get it because weekends.
My tastebuds lead me in all different directions come Friday night and nothing is off limits. Which is why meals like this, and generally healthy-ish dinners are incorporated into weeknights most of the time. But, you know, we eat what we want, when we want it. 😉
Standout elements of this dinner were the pesto which I can’t wait to make again and use in other green meals, the variety of veggies that made me continue to ache for summer (it’s still frigid), and the awesome topping of raw cucumber and avocado. I’m loving avocado on top of Asian-flavored meals as it really adds a great creaminess and welcome flavor change from the other ingredients.
Overall, this was a bowl I’d gladly have again and again. Especially since it made for some awesome leftovers and could have served a family of eight. Literally. 😮
Friday + Weekend: Cheers to the weekend! We love how these show up every five days! 😂 And this was a busy one, but also packed with some fun along the way. I don’t know about you, but my preference on Friday night is to go out for an early dinner and then come home, relax on the couch and catch up on some TV I missed sometime between Monday and that evening. We use our DVR a lot as well as on demand. (Have I mentioned my love of food-focused tv shows?).
This Friday stuck to that exact model and I just loved it. We grabbed a very early dinner at Border Cafè in Burlington, somewhere I like to go when I need endless (and safe) tortilla chips, salty salsa, and a silly-but-delicious meal. There are a number of great GF choices and the manager even spoke with me about the options I could order (thank you!).
Fun fact: Seth and I had lunch here on our very first date over six years ago! We still joke about how much we enjoy the super-relaxed atmosphere, reliably easy food, and of course, the water glasses (jugs?) that seem to hold almost a liter of liquid. Wow! This time around I got a glass of wine to go with my meal and Seth had a beer (he does not need to order GF).
Border also has locations in Cambridge and Saugus so I’d recommend heading to one of them next time you crave an extra-cheesy, chip-filled, and very wallet-friendly meal!
The rest of our weekend included our usual menagerie of excitement including seeing our families, hanging with friends, grabbing dinner at The Bancroft bar Saturday night (as always, it rocked), and me delving into another baking project once we got home. 😮
Yes! I decided to bake late on Saturday night which yielded a delicious result: more cookies!! I made those #panbanging chocolate chip ones and they were absurdly good. Again. I delivered a few to family on Sunday and thankfully they all agreed - just as yummy as the first batch!
For this set I used semisweet chocolate instead of bittersweet to see how the flavor would change. Turns out they’re even better!! I loved the first ones, but I think with the semisweet chocolate the overall cookie tasted more “this is the cookie I need in my pocket at all time.” However, they are giant cookies so don’t put them in your pockets. Maybe in your handbag instead. ;)
Our usual meal research, meal planning, shopping, and organizing was our Sunday so as I type this everything is calming down and Seth is preparing dinner. Athens the cat is on my lap, and I’m typing away. Life is good. And delicious. ;)
We hope you had a terrific weekend too and we can’t wait to share more of our meals with you next week. It’s going to be another great, gluten free batch! 😎🍽❤️
Mollie and Seth
Mollie Bakes: Pastry - coming soon! 😎