Speeding into September
As I type this recap, I'm realizing that we're already about to begin the second week of September, which feels surreal as I thought we were just finishing August. Well, time's a flyin' and I better jump on before I miss anything!
Perhaps what's also striking is that only days ago we were amidst a stifling heat wave and now I'm kind of chilly, with a blanket draped over me and excited that we won't need to use the air conditioning tonight to get a good night's sleep.
What does any of this have to do with our meals, you may be wondering? It doesn't, honestly, but how we're feeling in relation to the weather, time moving quickly, and the recognition of a soon-to-happen season change does impact our meal plan each week.
And this week's dinners, a somewhat hodgepodge mix of flavors, honors the fact that summer is slinking away and cooler temps are possible. Fall is around the bend!
Sunday night we skipped cooking because of the long weekend (Labor Day!) and walked to our local spot, Public Kitchen, for a very low-key evening. I've mentioned this restaurant before, and I'll continue to note that they have great gluten free (bar-style) options including nachos, personal-size pizzas, salads, and more.
This time around I had the "Fungus Amongus" pizza which had mushrooms, bacon, and an egg on top. Delicious! Reliably good food, a friendly staff, and an easy atmosphere that works well for those nights where it's easiest to just go out. :)
In honor of Labor Day, we had to do something grilled on Monday night. Thankfully, I had stumbled upon this amazing grilled chicken sandwich recipe, which we paired with corn (thank you, summer), and had ourselves a Labor Day picnic-at-our-dinner-table.
While we had to use store-bought GF bread for this sandwich, which I usually try to avoid, I must admit it was perfectly delicious for this sandwich (albeit the slices were quite small). Next time I'm definitely going to make a fresh loaf for all sandwich-for-dinner needs. I don't dislike GF bread overall, but I generally prefer making my own baked goods and I include bread in that bucket. Homemade is just so good!
The joy of this sandwich, beyond the concept of having an awesome grilled chicken sandwich for dinner, was the variety of elements in it that went together so well beyond the standard lettuce and tomato. I loved the "special sauce" which we slathered on both slices of bread as well as the fennel slaw that topped the chicken.
Both ingredients had such tremendous flavor that I'd love to use each (the sauce and the slaw) in other dinnertime situations. I think that sauce would be awesome on burgers and the slaw would really go well with just about anything that needs a crunchy, savory, surprising kick. I'm loving tangy ingredients these days and every part of this sandwich really met that craving. Plus, we "grilled" the bread slices by quickly cooking them in a hot pan with some butter to really give a delicious extra crunch to the dish.
What I love about sandwiches is that they're versatile. What I loved about this sandwich was that it gave me everything I never knew I wanted in a grilled chicken sandwich. Super delicious and perfect for dinner, lunch, picnics, or a snazzy snack. :)
Our tradition (ish?) of Pasta Tuesday snuck onto the meal plan and we had a basic, but wonderful classic: meat-sauce and pasta topped with Parmesan and basil. Seth made his homemade tomato sauce to which we added onion, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Oh my, I love this sauce so much because it's made with super-fresh, local plum tomatoes and we only have it for a short time at the beginning of the fall. Yes, there are many bags of sauce stored in the freezer, but I'll admit it: we always go through them way before winter and then must make other versions with canned San Marzano tomatoes (also delicious, just not the same). Homemade tomato sauce is something I'll always devour and appreciate. Not the quickest to make, but it's always worth it.
A simple meat-sauce-and-pasta can be made with any of your favorite proteins, but this time around we opted for ground pork. We've also loved it with ground beef or turkey, and I'm sure it could be great with chicken. For our indulgent, savory taste buds, the pork was perfect in this instance. I'm also in favor of using a protein such as pork or beef in meat-sauce since not much else is included and you really want to taste the protein amidst the pasta and sauce.
Classic dinners will always have a spot at our table and this one will never go out of style. While we love the more elaborate dishes and the ones with way more ingredients, the simplicity (and speed) of this dinner is part of the appeal. A seriously delicious, and filling, meal, is only a few ingredients away.
A week without meatballs isn't really a week, now is it? Ha! My passion for meatballs runs deep as I bring them for lunch daily and tend to add them onto meal plans more and more often despite said daily lunch. I just can't resist!
This instance involved a new meatball recipe, but a familiar setup: Sheet Pan Meatballs with Crispy Turmeric Chickpeas. All of the players we know and love, flavored slightly different, but with a very familiar result. What was the result? A great dinner that once again proved sheet pan dinners rock and that meatballs are really amazing any time of day.
My comments will be quick on this dish. While we did enjoy it, I will be honest and say I thought it would be more flavorful. Sure, the meatballs were good and the chickpeas and onions were a great addition, but I kind of wished the meatballs had a brighter, more exciting flavor. Maybe I just like spicier (or spicy) meatballs? Or maybe the intent for this dinner was to be more kid-friendly? The author of the recipe does have small kids. And I'm pretty confident most kids would inhale these meatballs and chickpeas.
So, in that respect, this is a wonderful dinner. It's great for a family, perfect for introducing kids to the joys of meatballs, and even a strong option for friends who may be spice-shy. However, if I were to make this again, I may alter the meatball ingredients slightly to add a punch of spice. Just because I love meatballs too much not to make sure they're perfect for every palate. ;)
Did I mention this week was super busy? Well, it was, and not only were we working, gyming, and dinner-ing daily, I decided to bake a cake Thursday night before we ate. It was a good move though because I brought it to work on Friday and everyone really enjoyed it (such shock that gluten free cakes can be delicious!). While I was baking, Seth was dealing with dinner and creating a really excellent meatless meal. Multi-tasking!
Another dish from the always-welcoming Smitten Kitchen, we picked a meatless dinner because the nights prior were a little more meaty and a vegetarian plate never hurt anyone. I'm all for balance in my diet and while some weeks that means lots of salads, other weeks that means a meatless dinner amidst a handful of "meaty" dishes. You've got to live and enjoy your life! Managing a gluten free life can be stressful enough; I can't constantly worry about my lettuce intake as well. I just make sure I eat some, most of the time.
This dinner was an amazing blend of zucchini ribbons, basil pesto, and plain white beans. By grilling the zucchini before mixing it all together, it really gave an excellent added flavor and allowed the zucchini to stand out a bit more than if we had prepared them in a less-exciting way.
Of note, we do not own a grill. But we do have a grill pan! Many, many rounds of slowly grilling the zucchini ribbons later, we were finally ready to eat. Everything would be faster with an actual outdoor grill, but until that happens (not soon) our pan will have to suffice. And I'd say it's doing a pretty stand-up job. :)
I'm always surprised by how scrumptious certain meatless meals can be and this one was no exception. The grilled zucchini, fresh basil pesto, and basic white beans came together to make a seriously delicious end-of-summer dinner which I'll miss quite a lot during the many winter months.
Sure, we will have access to the ingredients needed to make it again, but there's nothing quite like fresh zucchini and basil grown nearby. We love eating with the season and this meal was a kind reminder of how incredible summer produce really is and how we'll miss it quite a lot come February. Or rather, come October because the chill in the air is another reminder that the season is about to change!
Here was our weekend in a nutshell: we relaxed! And I baked. And we watched tennis, went out to eat, and spent time with family on Sunday. Here are a few snapshots and the names of those restaurants in case you're interested.
Red Heat Tavern: grabbed an early dinner here on Friday night! Extensive gluten free menu and attentive staff, I always hope to order dessert, but then I'm too full by the time it's an appropriate moment for a cookie pie. Maybe next time!
Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse: we popped in for a late dinner Saturday night and the location we visited was packed! After a mid-length wait for bar seats, we had a great time with delicious food. There's a fantastic gluten free menu with plenty to choose from and a couple dessert options. Much like my experience on Friday, by the time I thought about dessert, I was too full from dinner to consider it! We've been fans of Davio's for a while, and I strongly recommend it for your next weekend dinner out.
Sunday evening was the start of Rosh Hashanah! Wishing you all a sweet and happy, healthy New Year! We celebrated with my family and I contributed a delicious, gluten free dessert - blueberry cake! Full details will be on my next baking feature, debut coming soon, but I'll leave you with this: I think it may just be one of my favorite non-frosted cakes, ever. :)
Here's to the start of a fresh, full week and hoping you had a wonderful weekend. There are a lot of great meals ahead!
Mollie and Seth
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Caesar-ish Dressing: Make sure to use gluten free bread, of course, but everything else on this sandwich is gluten free. Grab the recipe, from Bon Appetit, here!
Meat-sauce with Gluten Free Pasta topped with Parmesan and Basil: a GFMD classic dish, we don't use a formal recipe for this one. However, the only gluten free must is the pasta. Our favorite is from Jovial Foods!
Sheet Pan Meatballs with Crispy Turmeric Chickpeas: All you need to swap for this meal is the breadcrumbs. Make sure to use GF panko. We use the brand Aleia's which are perfect for this use. Grab the recipe for this weeknight wonder, from Smitten Kitchen, here!
Grilled Zucchini Ribbons with Pesto and White Beans: A naturally gluten free recipe! Nothing to change! White beans are gluten free, but make sure that the container you purchase is labeled properly. Click on over to the recipe, from Smitten Kitchen, here!