Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume 51

Welcome to the fifty-first Weeknight Dinner Recap! Back from vacation and excited to be cooking, we have had a delicious week of flavorful, fast meals that featured some amazing ingredients and quick cook times. Nothing better for the first week back to work, right? 

What I loved about the week’s dishes were the terrific variety of featured protein. From chickpeas to scallops to pork to shrimp, we really aimed for recipes that featured a "strong main” each night.

And I have to admit, every single meal was a win. There wasn’t a boring bite in sight! I may be biased, but dinner time really rocks in our house. ;) 

Let’s get to the plates!  

Sunday’s Dish: Gluten free shell pasta with homemade basil pesto, roasted cauliflower, and crispy chickpeas.

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Source: Our own recipe! Combining a few of our favorite things to make one delicious dish. Our basil plant is thriving so we are making homemade pesto fairly regularly these days. Yum! 

We’ve been improvising a bit ever since mastering the roasted cauliflower recipe in Dinner by Melissa Clark, and tossing the chickpeas onto the pan was a delicious, last-minute addition. 

GFMD: The gluten free pasta and chickpeas used in this meal were from Jovial Foods. Our favorite source for GF pasta and excellent, organic beans. The dinner is naturally gluten free as long as you use gluten free pasta. ;) 

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Outcome: For the first night back in the kitchen after a handful of days by the ocean, we craved something easy, quick, and comfy. And for some reason, I wasn’t in the mood for meat. So, thankfully, chickpeas took its place! 

Our basil plant has been growing like a weed lately which meant it was time for pesto. YUM! Seth’s homemade basil pesto is a favorite of mine and I’ll never tire of the incredible smell that fills our kitchen when it’s being made and waiting to be enjoyed.

Fresh, earthy, and oh-so-craveworthy, basil pesto goes on everything.  For tonight, we added it to pasta, but it’s fabulous as a marinade for chicken, shrimp, and a host of other goodies. It’s also a summertime classic, in my opinion, as the store-bought stuff the rest of the year just never really matches up. 

Skipping meat altogether, this pasta dish was filled with a quick sheet pan of roasted cauliflower and chickpeas which added different textures to the pasta and a nice contrasting flavor profile to the pesto.

While each component absorbed some of the basil goodness, it was predominantly the pasta that soaked up the pesto pizzazz. The cauliflower and chickpeas were bursts of yum in between the perfectly cooked gluten free shells smothered in pesto.  

This dinner was a great way to close out vacation, welcome a new week, and embrace all the joys of summer flavors. Plus, we welcomed back pasta onto our dinner table. We couldn’t keep it away forever. ;)  

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Monday’s Dish: Seared Scallops with Brown Butter and Lemon Pan Sauce, Corn-off-the-cob with tomatoes and basil.

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Source: Recipe by Carla Lalli Music for Bon Appétit, and you can find it here. The corn side is something Seth made up on his own. :)

GFMD: A naturally-gluten-free wonder dinner! Special for our 2nd wedding anniversary - Seth said he would make absolutely anything I was craving. So, I decided to combine a couple of my summer cravings, of course!

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Outcome: Cheers to us! This amazing meal was to celebrate our second wedding anniversary! And what better way to celebrate than to have a delicious pairing of scallops, cooked to perfection, and farm-fresh corn, which is in season right this second. 

I found this scallop recipe months ago and we loved it the first time around, so I immediately thought of it when we were deciding on our anniversary dinner at home. A scrumptious brown-butter and lemon sauce is poured over seared scallops and every bite is as mouth-wateringly yummy as you hope it will be back when you decided to make the recipe.

Excellent for a special occasion that falls on a weeknight, these scallops are a dish I’ll always recommend for a flavor-packed, make-you-smile-immediately dinner. 

There’s something elegant, luxurious, and downright delicious about scallops which I cannot completely pinpoint, but I always love them and always enjoy them as part of a celebration meal. In fact, we had scallops as one of the passed hors d'oeuvre at our wedding so it’s somewhat fitting we had them on our anniversary. ;)

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In regard to the corn, I’ll say this: it’s corn season right now so we are having it at dinner time as much as possible. Fresh, sweet, and immediately makes me cheery, sweet corn in the summer is as traditional around here as turkey on Thanksgiving.

We thought corn would be a great addition to our anniversary dinner because it is a sweet reminder of how important it is to “eat the season.” Seth boiled the corn, removed the kernels, and then combined them with fresh grape tomatoes and basil from our balcony garden (plus a little butter). The result was a delicious dish that would go with pretty much anything! And it was as local as you can get! 

The corn was awesome with scallops, but I could easily see us having it again with grilled chicken, burgers, or another seafood. A versatile veggie side, indeed! 

All in all, our anniversary dinner at home was yummy, happy, and made me realize (again and again) how lucky we are to have one another; and how delicious food will always be our favorite way to celebrate. ;) 

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Tuesday’s Dish: Chipotle-Honey Shrimp Tacos

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Source: Recipe by Andy Baraghani for Basically (part of Bon Appetit) and it’s available online, here!

GFMD: The recipe is naturally gluten free! How awesome is that?! And for the record, we made our own corn tortillas using masa harina, which is available at Wegman’s. 

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Outcome: When it comes to tacos, we usually go all-in. And by that I mean we eat a lot of them. So imagine our surprise when we had these scrumptious little wonders, only three of them for each of us, and we were completely full and satisfied!

Sure, three tacos isn’t nothing, but after a long work day, going to the gym, and snacks being few and far between, I anticipated needing more than just three tacos for dinner. 🤷‍♀️ Joyfully, three was more than enough!

The homemade corn tortillas have become the norm whenever tacos are happening and I fully admit I’m spoiled. Seth makes them by hand using masa flour, which is naturally gluten free corn that’s treated with lime and then ground into a flour.

The tortillas are made by combining that masa flour with some water and just a little salt. That’s it! Then the dough is formed into balls which are then put into the tortilla press, forming the tortillas themselves. If you’d like a video tutorial on the process, let me know.

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Everything that went into this dish was quick to prepare and had awesome flavor altogether when finally eating the actual tacos. A light and bright shrimp with just a hint of spice, the crema, cabbage, and onions were perfect toppings - creamy and crunchy to balance the salty/sweet/spicy shrimp.

I love tacos that have a host of textures and these certainly had every texture covered completely. Plus, we learned that “massaging” chopped red onion (no joke) with lime juice softens them nicely and leaves them with a wonderful, slightly mild flavor that compliments the shrimp really well. Who knew?! 

For your next shrimp taco night, I’d recommend these because they were delicious, quick to make, and shockingly filling! While I kind of wanted to eat six of them, I was entirely satisfied with three. ;)  

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Wednesday’s Dish: Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens (we used kale).

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Source: Recipe by Chris Morocco for Healthyish (part of Bon Appetit) and it’s available online, here.

GFMD: We purchased rice noodles that were labeled gluten free as well as peanut butter that’s all natural and labeled GF. Clearly, both of these items should be gluten free, but always buy versions that are labeled as such. Safety first! 

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Outcome: Holy mother of peanut sauce was this an amazing meal. While it leaned eerily close to another pasta night, it took a hard left when it had tones of Asian cuisine and a rice noodle base. I’m sure some of you would consider this a “pasta Wednesday,” but I’d like to just call it a really great weeknight dinner. That includes noodles. 😉

I couldn’t wait to make this dish when I saw it featured time and again on the Bon Appétit website and across a few of their staff’s social media accounts. Everyone was giving it the thumbs up and boasting about the awesome flavor and accessible-nature of this protein-and-greens-filled meal.

If you can’t tell already, I’m easily influenced by terrific food photos and will almost always include a recipe in our plans if the photo looks as amazing as the title sounds. Case in point, this dinner. 

We decided to use kale instead of the recommended collard greens because I’m a member of the kale club (which I made up) and I really prefer it over many other leafy greens. I like collard greens. But I love kale. Wow. A bold declaration. But I fully support it.  

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And man, who would have thought that kale, ground pork, and an absurdly delicious peanut sauce would be a combo I’d crave for days after we ate. The peanut sauce covered everything, mostly the rice noodles, so that you still tasted the pork and greens fairly strongly against the peanut essence and noodles. The crushed peanuts on top didn’t hurt, either. ;)  

What was most attractive about this dish was that it tasted far more unhealthy and indulgent than it really was, which is kind of how I love my dinner. Bold flavors and an indulgent appearance, but fairly (ish) healthy on the whole. Ironic that this recipe came from Healthyish on the website. 

Fine, it’s not a basic green salad with no dressing, but it is a well-rounded meal with veggies, protein, and a carb that taste more like a peanut butter sundae (a guilty pleasure) than a dinner filled with kale. You get what I’m saying? Good. Now go make this dish. 😎

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Thursday’s Dish: Shrimp and No-Stir Grits

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Source: Recipe by Claire Saffitz for Bon Appétit. You can find it online, here!

GFMD: What's even more incredible than the flavors in this meal is the fact that it's naturally gluten free! Make sure to buy grits (polenta) that are marked GF. It's a naturally gluten free item, but always make sure the packaging is labeled properly. 

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Outcome: We often double-up on shrimp dinners during the weeks we buy it because shrimp is often sold in two-pound bags, which equals two different shrimp dishes. Therefore, for this second shrimp-focus, I landed on this gem. And I couldn’t be happier.

OK, we have made grits before, and we love them, but there was something about these with their no-stir mantra and stirred-in cheddar that made them absolutely incredible. Like a warm blanket thrown under the shrimp, tomatoes, bacon, and scallions to keep them all safe and happy, these grits were a dinner element I never realized we needed so badly.  

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Grits, polenta, whatever you’d like to call it, I’d call it awesome. A perfect base for this “shrimp and grits” dish. Not to say we don’t enjoy the more labor-intensive version that has one stirring constantly while the grits come to life, but this was even easier and dare I say was a bit more flavorful. But! To each their own. 

Let’s not argue on the topic of grits versus polenta or your preferred method for cooking. I’d rather just share a plate of polenta fries (omg yum) and call it a day.  

Beyond the polenta, let's not forget the incredible aroma filling our kitchen from the bacon that was made and then mixed together with the shrimp, tomatoes, and scallions. Wow! Flavor town (not to be confused with anything on Food Network) was in our kitchen. I think this may be a new favorite combo. 

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention while Seth prepared this one, but we essentially declared it to be one of the best meals we’ve had (at home) after having the first couple bites.

Everything about this dinner was delicious and the ring of hot sauce I added (that red around the bowl) was just what the (flavor) doctor ordered. OK, fine, the recipe said to add the hot sauce. But I wouldn’t dare not follow their recommendation. 😉

Seriously, make this meal. I’ve heard it could even be great for brunch! 😎

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Friday + Weekend: After a busy week of work and a set of dinners that really blew our minds, we were ready for a relaxing, uneventful weekend. And that’s just what we got!

Find below a few highlights of our two days off and the restaurants we visited. Their names are clickable links to the restaurant’s website. 🙂

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Highlights

- An easy dinner Friday night at Red Heat Tavern featuring large, protein-filled salads. And trying their housemade tater tots. Oh, I finally had a Moscow mule. I know, I know, how am I only having this cocktail now? But who cares! It was great and perfect for a super low-key dinner at the bar.

This restaurant features a menu that can be made entirely gluten free. Even the desserts!! 😮😋

 Housemade tater tots. Basically mashed potatoes mixed with bacon and cheese that's deep fried in this shape. ;)

Housemade tater tots. Basically mashed potatoes mixed with bacon and cheese that's deep fried in this shape. ;)

- Saturday included a morning walk then lots and lots of rain. We didn’t let it ruin the day though and enjoyed great visits with our families. :)

- Did you know that Seth’s parents have an incredible garden?! Yup. They work hard on it all spring and summer and it produces an amazing variety of produce that they enjoy throughout the summer and fall. It’s filled with the freshest veggies and berries, including a tremendous amount of cucumbers. We will never run out of homemade pickles! ☺️🙂

 Poblano peppers!

Poblano peppers!

 The day's bounty from the garden. 

The day's bounty from the garden. 

 There's even a flower section!

There's even a flower section!

- Our usual Sunday routine started with a morning walk, a brief Starbucks run, and then the usual meal planning and grocery shopping. A bonus of the day was a joyful mid-afternoon lunch at The Bancroft where I had shrimp cocktail, gazpacho, and a lobster Cobb salad.

 Massive shrimp. 

Massive shrimp. 

We shared those first items, of course. The shrimp were giant! And Seth enjoyed delicious Steak Frites! So yummy I forgot to take photos. 😬 You will just have to visit for yourself and find out. This spot is a must-go and we find ourselves lingering at the bar far too often. Delicious food and a wonderful staff. Plus, their gluten free menu is just splendid! :) 

 Lobster cobb. 

Lobster cobb. 

How was your weekend? Did you find a new restaurant or return to a favorite? Maybe you made a great new meal or found some recipes you’re excited about for the new week. Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear how you’re enjoying these joyful, summer weekends. :)

 Homegrown strawberry straight from the garden. 

Homegrown strawberry straight from the garden. 

Here’s to delicious food and summer fun! 

Eat, well. 

Mollie and Seth

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