Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XLV
Welcome to the forty-fifth Weeknight Dinner Recap! This week was filled with so many colorful meals and a tremendous variety. From salad to stir fry and tacos to veggies, we covered a lot of food-loves and I could barely decide on a favorite!
With the official start to summer and slowly working on some summer plans (I need to go to the ocean and eat lots of lobster), meals lately are bright, fun, and full of flavor. And I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for exciting new baking options.
Did you see all those cookies from last week? They were great, but a lot of work. However, isn’t that always the case with the most delicious bites? 🤗
Let’s get to the week’s dinners, shall we? There’s so much to share!
Sunday’s Dish: Artichoke and Paprika Hummus and Weeknight Cucumber Salad
Source: What’s Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food by Gaby Dalkin
GFMD: Naturally gluten free! It’s the best! No changes required.
Outcome: After a busy weekend of baking, and a few tastes along the way, I was in no mood for anything sweet let alone a big dinner. Not to mention it was pretty hot on Sunday, which encouraged a light dinner even more. So, I think this is my new favorite easy dinner combo. Perfect for a hot summer day, lunch or dinner, small group or garden party. A versatile plate, indeed!
My relationship with hummus is mixed. While I do like it, I don’t always choose it, despite enjoying the flavor quite a bit. But then I was introduced to homemade hummus and my world has been changed forever. I know, it’s kind of surprising we’ve never made hummus, but such is life. Now we have! And it’s amazing!
The hummus was packed with artichokes, smoked paprika, lemon juice, olive oil, chickpeas, garlic, and tahini. Fresh and delicious, I loved being able to adjust the “spice” by adding extra paprika on top of the finished hummus. So good!! Overall, I could eat this hummus any time of day with any number of dipping implements. This time around we used red peppers, but if this was for a party, I’d probably organize a platter with GF crackers, peppers, and maybe even GF pretzels. Wild, I know. ☺️
We were originally just going to make the hummus, but thankfully my stomach-senses kicked in and we realized that would not be enough to eat, no matter how light we wanted dinner to be. Cue up the salad! And what a joyful, easy, and scrumptious one we made!
Cucumbers, avocado, arugula, a basic balsamic vinaigrette, and voilá! Done. I loved the minimalist nature of this salad and loved that the author noted that her mom made this salad almost every week when she was growing up. I can see why!
Quick to prep and open to any additions you choose, we decided to sprinkle bacon on top of the salad because we love life and how could you resist? We had extra bacon in the fridge (thank goodness) so using it for the salad “crunch” was the best option for its use. For the record, if you decide to bake your bacon instead of frying it stovetop, it will take a long time! We underestimated the time and ended up eating a bit later than predicted. Whoops!
What I loved most about this meal was that not only did each “dish” taste really good, I loved how the hummus mixed into the salad wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes the salad should stay far away from everything else on the plate, but not here!
I dipped my cucumbers in the hummus and enjoyed every moment. A little hummus got mixed into the arugula and I rejoiced. It didn’t matter that it all scrambled together a little. Flavors that tasted great on their own, or together. A terrific summer salad plate! :)
Note: stack a piece of avocado and bacon together and eat in one glorious, creamy, and crunchy bacon-y bite. ;)
Monday’s Dish: Thai-style ground turkey with chiles and basil
Source: Favorites from Melissa Clark’s Kitchen by Melissa Clark
GFMD: As with any dish that includes Thai-style flavors, make sure to use gluten free soy sauce! Otherwise, everything in the meal was naturally gluten free. But - make sure your peanuts are not processed in a facility containing wheat.
Outcome: On one of the most humid days to-date, and with a major thunderstorm approaching, we decided to have a quick, but super delicious dinner to satisfy some cravings without much effort or time near a hot oven. Thankfully, this meal did exactly that!
We threw some brown rice and coconut milk in the rice cooker, let it do its thing, and when it was almost done, grabbed the wok and made this scrumptious take on a Thai-style dish featuring ground turkey.
Then, once the rice was ready, we topped our rice base with this mix and dinner was ready! Minimal effort for such a flavorful dinner, which is key when it’s too hot to bother, but you do need to eat.
What I loved about this meal was the variety of flavors, the squeeze of lime juice that made every bite pop, fresh basil and jalapeño, and finally, the addition of peanuts to the wok right before it was done! That was a last-minute, we-hope-this-works kind of decision. I mean, we knew peanuts wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I didn’t fully realize how delicious the overall dinner would be with them included.
Thai-style flavors abound in a bowl filled with ground turkey, chives, peanuts, and a simple sauce, which paired just perfectly with the coconut brown rice underneath. Basically, make this dinner when you want a delicious dinner. And you want it NOW. You won’t be disappointed. And you won’t be hungry anymore. ;)
Tuesday’s Dish: Tuscan Kale “Caesar” Pasta
Source: Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry
GFMD: We opted for zucchini noodles instead of pasta, again, which worked beautifully in this dish. We also made sure to use GF Panko breadcrumbs. Otherwise, we made no changes whatsoever to the recipe. We may have added a little extra Parmesan. ;)
Outcome: What a surprise!! I admit we were worried that using zucchini instead of real (GF) pasta would turn this dish upside down in a bad way, but we were wrong! And I’m so glad to be wrong in this instance!
This dinner had all of our favorite Caesar salad flavors, but in hot-dinner-form instead of a cold, not-always-perfect salad. And that’s what made it great. The crunchy Panko breadcrumbs stood in for croutons, the kale was the “lettuce,” and the zucchini noodles were the other, less-exciting, but still crucial other lettuce.
To top it all off, each serving got an awesome, runny-yolk egg which split all over the meal and made every bite ultra-yum. If you’re not into that bold egg, then you could cook it further, or leave it out entirely. However, I think the egg really made the dish complete. And don’t forget a little lemon zest on everything before you eat!
One of the many benefits of this meal, besides it being delicious, was that by using zucchini noodles, we didn’t get quite so full as if we had included pasta. True, using pasta may have made it even more awesome, but for our current health trends swapping for zucchini noodles was a wise move that joyfully worked exceptionally well!
Make this dinner next time your mind says Caesar salad, but your heart says creativity. I just know you’ll be thrilled with the results.
Wednesday’s Dish: Taco Skillet Bake
Source: What’s Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food by Gaby Dalkin
GFMD: Naturally gluten free! No joke! Of course, double-check labels on cheese, beans, and anything else non-produce, but in reality, nothing in this dish should ever contain gluten. And if it does, then I may suggest finding a new brand/source for whichever item that happens to be.
Outcome: OMG Yum! What a fan-favorite this dinner continues to be. While we rarely do repeat recipes, trying to encourage variety as much as possible, sometimes you just crave a certain meal NOW. And for us, this taco-style dish was exactly the craving we needed after a busy day and a great workout at the gym.
Not only is this skillet protein-packed with ground turkey, beans, and avocado (healthy fats!), it is all made in a single pot so the effort is pretty minimal given the outstanding flavor and scrumptious results.
Also, while you could definitely serve this with tortilla chips (we did last time), we went without and it was just as fun! I suppose without a dipping option, the meal turns into a slightly-chili-like item, but not at all soup-y. It’s hearty, chunky, and awesome.
I loved the toppings we used, too. Avocado, sliced scallions, fresh cilantro, and thinly-sliced hot peppers made for a welcome final flavor in every bite. Be careful though, those red peppers are quite hot! My favorite bites were ones that had avocado because I just love it and will pretty much include it in any meal where it seems remotely appropriate. 🤗
What was great about this dinner was the plentiful amount of leftovers and the realization that it’s pretty perfect party food! I can easily see serving this at a casual summer get together with optional tortilla chips, a big bowl of guacamole (yes please), and maybe a fruit salad on the side ... because fruit!
I love finding meals that would be delicious and fun for big groups as it encourages me to think about hosting dinner parties! While I love eating great food each night with Seth, we really love sharing meals with family and friends. That’s what is so awesome about food, in general, to me. It brings everyone together. :)
Thursday’s Dish: Potato Chip Chicken and Pan-Grilled Asparagus
Source: Half Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard (chicken recipe only).
GFMD: While this is a GF meal, make sure your cornflakes and potato chips are labeled GF, which can be tough on the cornflakes front. We used the brand Erewhon Organic which labels their cornflakes gluten free and organic. We used Cape Cod Potato Chips since they’re always labeled GF, too. And they’re so yummy! ;)
Outcome: Blast from the past! Not only was this dinner extremely similar to one I had weekly growing up, I realized I still enjoy it just as much as when I was little! But let’s be honest: who wouldn’t love baked chicken covered in potato chips and cornflakes?! My point exactly.
The story behind this recipe was what encouraged me to add it to this week’s plan, as the author’s grandmother and mother had been making it for decades, which is the same story behind the dish I ate with my family for decades.
I suppose once you find a great, easy + classic dinner that everyone loves, why change it up? Everyone’s busy so a weeknight dinner that’s delicious and gets everyone eating together is a major win.
Potato Chip Chicken is basically the same dinner my mom made us every week, but this (new-to-me) version had us coat the chicken in melted butter, then a mixture of crushed potato chips and cornflakes, and finally baked to golden, crispy perfection. OMG.
While this recipe was pretty decadent and salty, I’m not going to say it was a mistake to make it this way. We followed the recipe and it turned out really well: simply delicious + crispy, baked chicken. However, I think there are a few ways to make it healthier and I think my mom’s version did exactly that.
Growing up, our own “cornflake chicken” was dipped in an egg or milk wash, then rolled/covered in crushed cornflakes, drizzled with olive oil, and baked. Easy and yummy, this dinner was a weekly staple for so many years I can barely tally them up. Not to mention this dish was often included at large family events because it’s a crowd-pleaser and can be made for a big group fairly quickly!
So, how would I compare the two versions of this chicken dinner? Both delicious and both relevant. Each family has their own favorite way to make certain meals and I thought it was important to try another’s method of making something I’ve been eating my entire life.
While I’d probably skip the melted butter next time and use a healthier base coat, I kind of loved the salty addition of potato chips to the crunch-factor. Cornflakes alone are great, but adding the chips took it to a new savory level that I don’t think I could always resist. :)
Firmly placing this recipe into my “party food” bucket because I’m sure these would disappear in an instant served with a fun cocktail. 😎
PS: the asparagus was great, too! However, local is best and since asparagus season has dwindled around here, it’s time to shift our veggie focus on to the next set of summer produce!
Friday + Weekend: A relaxed jumble of fun is how I’d describe the weekend. A few things I had to do mixed with a few things I love to do, and a nice balance of great food + daily exercise.
All in all, a well-spent two days off, but I’m still excited for an extended weekend around the 4th of July holiday! That’s right around the corner, can you believe it?! 😮 Until then, we’ll be cooking as usual and bringing you new recipes nightly.
Find below the weekend highlights and everywhere we ate, now displayed as Bar Bites: To Go (each restaurant’s name is a clickable link that brings you to the corresponding website!)
- Long walks before breakfast are now my favorite way to begin each weekend day. We get up (fairly early) and hit the pavement for a few miles (sometimes I run!). It’s a refreshing change of pace from weekday mornings and gives us time to chat, away from technology, and be outside!
- Shopping for a couple necessities and some browsing in Chestnut Hill allowed for a little “retail therapy” to relax the mind and just meander the shops. I won’t get into it here, but I really love shoes. And handbags. And denim. And...
- Staying in Saturday night to watch some Netflix shows and actually chill. A quiet evening at home with homemade tomato sauce + GF shells proved the best at-home comfort food for a night I didn’t realize how much I needed. I was asleep far earlier than expected!
- Meal planning, grocery shopping, and popping by Strawberry Fest at Wilson Farm in Lexington on Sunday! Did you go? We sampled their farm-fresh strawberries, strawberry lemonade, and even a corn salsa with strawberries! Lots of yummy snacks as we did our shopping + prepping for the week!
Bar Bites: To Go
Public Kitchen: a new favorite spot that’s local for us! Offering delicious shareable plates, entrees, and salads, the menu offers something for everyone. Plenty of GF options and the bartenders are friendly and welcoming. Tip: the nachos are safely gluten free!
Legal Sea Foods - Chestnut Hill: This location was shifted and renovated recently and I’m pretty sure if we lived closer I’d go there several times a week. A beautiful bar and light-filled setting with all of your favorite GF Legal classics. My standby right now has been a Caesar with Shrimp and Fried Clams. I can’t resist!
North Ave Diner: A new (to us) spot for weekend breakfast! While breakfast, lunch, and dinner are offered, we stopped in for breakfast and were quite pleased! Ultra-friendly staff and free refills on coffee, I enjoyed a delicious veggie-filled omelette and a side of bacon (yum!).
While GF toast is offered, and pancakes, they are prepared on a shared grill. Therefore cross-contamination will occur, so I’d avoid it. Otherwise, there is still lots to choose from and a fun, easy atmosphere to enjoy.
We hope you had a wonderful weekend filled with delicious food, and perhaps a little extra time to relax! See you here next week for another dinner-time recap and weekend review!
Mollie and Seth