Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XXXII
Welcome to the thirty-second edition of Weeknight Dinner Recap! Settling in to our new home and new weeknight routines has taken a little bit of getting used to, but I think we are finally in a good groove and are back to feeling totally settled. We’ve almost lived here for a month!
Our cat, Athens, definitely has settled in, that's for sure. She loves looking out the windows, sleeping on top of me, and eating about nine times a day. No joke! But that's enough about her quirks; let's get back to ours! ;)
This week's meals included some stellar flavors, a classic blast-from-the-past, and a dish that was so freaking good I wish I was eating it right now as I type on the couch. But that would be incredibly messy and I'm still terrified of eating anywhere near our new couch. Yes, we still have snacks or desserts while standing in the kitchen. Maybe I'll relax a bit more next week. Maybe. Oh, and it was Seth's birthday so we celebrated a lot! Hooray!
Let's dig in to the week's dinners shall we? They were all fantastic.
Sunday’s Dish: Kung Pao Chicken
Recipe: The recipe came from the cookbook Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young.
GFMD: As with most Asian-flavored dishes, this is one to make sure all of your ingredients are labeled gluten free. We make sure to purchase GF soy sauce (Tamari) and that any other bottled sauces etc we need are labeled as such. There are a few that do not say GF specifically, so just read the ingredients carefully and Google the product if necessary to confirm. When in doubt just skip it; trust your gut. ;)
Outcome: We made this dish for the first time a few years ago in a past apartment, and had put it on the back burner for a while (pun intended) until we had a glorious gas range again. Well, that time has come and we are back! This dinner is incredible and has flavors that burst with every bite.
Using our wok for stir fries is really making a world of difference for flavor and general goodness: everything just tastes better! And I totally forgot how awesome peanuts can be when used in dishes like these. I love the crunchy component and the peanut flavor amidst the other ingredients such as Tamari, ginger, and Thai chilies. Yup, this was a spicy dinner!
One more aspect of this meal that I loved, and now crave with most meals, is color. I love the bright red peppers amidst the “tan” peanuts and chicken all together over the bright white rice. I’m a firm believer in that the more appetizing a dish looks, the more delicious it will taste.
Of course, there are exceptions, but that’s a goal of ours every night: choose recipes that will yield a bright, exciting plate that will make us happy to eat it. We think that this makes our nightly dinner (even) more fun!
Monday’s Dish: Baked Summer Squash with Cream and Parmesan Breadcrumbs; paired with Italian-breadcrumb crispy chicken topped with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan. This was a very relaxed take on chicken parm (i.e., it needs way more cheese next time).
Recipe: The baked summer squash came from Dining In by Alison Roman and the chicken is a classic we've been making at home for years.
GFMD: For the baked squash (we chose zucchini) we used GF panko from our favorite Aleia's Artisan Foods, which was the only edit necessary for this recipe. And for our longtime-love Italian breadcrumb chicken, we used GF Italian breadcrumbs, which are also from Aleia's. This is a small company based out of CT and we're huge fans of their entire gluten free product line. In fact, everything they make is gluten free! Yippee!
Outcome: Enjoying this meal was akin to finding an old sweatshirt that you loved for its extreme comfort, but had put away for a while into your closet for reasons unknown. This dinner, a semi-new take on delicious baked zucchini and our longtime favorite, “chicken parm lite,” was just the type of dish we wanted after an extra-busy work day. Classic flavors and a lot of crunch that came together quickly and provided us with a hearty, but fairly healthy meal. I know there’s breadcrumbs covering everything. Deal with it. I said fairly healthy. ;)
The baked zucchini was scrumptious as it cooked in the oven in a milk bath (oops, it was supposed to be cream), which allowed the flavors to meld together nicely. However, next time we will definitely use cream, as instructed, because I think that would result in a much more grand flavor. The Parmesan breadcrumbs were as joyful as you’d imagine because who would say no to that combo? I personally don’t know those people.
As for the chicken, I’ll admit we used to live on GF breadcrumb-coated, pan-fried chicken. Truly, we made it at least three times a week and eventually I just said enough is enough. We needed more! More variety! More fun! That’s actually a little of how this whole blog/insta started, but I digress.
To make the chicken a little more exciting, we topped it with a super-quick tomato sauce (read: I found an old can of tomatoes in the cupboard) and sprinkled some Parmesan on top. This is not a true chicken Parmesan, but it did have the requisite components so the flavor profile was apparent.
Next time, if we want chicken Parmesan, I’ll make a serious chicken Parmesan. With awesome tomato sauce (from scratch) and major mozzarella and Parmesan covering it and then broiled to perfection. Yum! In fact, maybe it will make it onto next week’s plan... 😉
Tuesday’s Dish: Thai Lettuce Wraps
Recipe: The recipe is from a book I've told everyone they need to buy, and that is Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. We have made countless recipes from this cookbook (I'd keep it under my pillow! I love it!) and this dish in particular was absurdly good.
GFMD: To make sure this meal was just perfect, we used GF soy sauce instead of regular. Otherwise, all other ingredients were all natural and naturally gluten free!
Of note, cashews (and all nuts) are gluten free (of course). However, I recommend checking the packaging on nuts since some are processed in a facility that also processes wheat (this phrase is what you're looking for when shopping).
When products such as nuts or other items include that message, I do not buy them. A personal choice as someone with Celiac, this processing note may not bother others with other types of no-gluten requirements. Always do what feels best for yourself and your dietary requirements.
Outcome: We have been raving about this meal from the second we finished eating and wished we had made a double batch. Lettuce wraps are quickly becoming an easy weeknight favorite and for good reason: they’re just so delicious! These specific ones especially since the flavors were so freaking good I was basically licking my plate, trying to find flavor crumbs long after we finished.
Toasted cashews are also a dream, if you didn’t know. Many recipes lately call for roasted/toasted nuts of various kinds and I’m really embracing it. Not only do they add a nutty flavor (haha), but the toasting/roasting really makes them pop.
And omg they’re an awesome snack, too. We often make too many for the recipe itself so that we can snack on them the rest of the week (read: when I’m starving after the gym, or walking through the kitchen with no purpose/destination). They’re a really great crunchy topping, garnish, snack, protein/healthy fat addition to so many scenarios!
But, I admit, the true star of the filling for these wraps was the pork. Yes, again, ground pork made it into our home and on to our dinner plate and all is right in life. Holy flavor Batman, this stuff is the best. You may disagree, go right ahead, but I love it. And for this Thai-flavored meal, it was the perfect protein to use (the recipe recommended it).
We stir-fried the ground pork in the wok (of course) with the other ingredients and it just got so perfect and crispy and can we make it again? Like, now? I loved the filling for these lettuce wraps and adored the full package with the toasted cashews, shredded carrots, and the squeeze of fresh lime. I’m going to consider them my new favorite form of a “Thai taco,” and invite everyone over so we can indulge and rejoice together. Sound good? ;)
Wednesday’s Dish: Greek-Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta.
Recipe: This recipe can be found online via Cook's Illustrated. I found the image on their Instagram gallery and got to the recipe link through their bio. I've saved it for future reference!
GFMD: A one-pan wonder that was entirely gluten free! No edits or changes were necessary. And while the recipe suggested serving it with bread, we opted to have it as is without such carbs. Next time around, I may consider whipping up a loaf to have on the side..
Outcome: We decided it may be wise to lighten up toward the end of the week, what with all that crispy chicken, pork, and Kung Pao, so we had the next best thing: a one-skillet meal filled with veggies and shrimp! So good. So, so good.
When planning this week, I knew I wanted shrimp in some way as well as something “Greek-flavored.” So, I took to the Instagram explore section, and typed in the words “Greek shrimp.”
Low and behold, I wandered into the recipe rabbit hole and finally found this winner! I love this method for finding new recipes based on flavors I’m craving. It doesn’t always work, and most times I stick to my cookbooks, but for this night it was exactly right.
A beautiful dish filled with bright flavors, delicious shrimp, and a scrumptious topping of crumbled feta and fresh dill. The feta may look tame here in the photo, but have no fear. I did add more once I had my serving on my plate. 🙈 Well, multiple servings, which is totally OK since this dish was entirely veggies and shrimp. And cheese, blah blah blah, but you get the point.
The recipe recommended serving with “crusty bread,” which of course would severely hurt me. Yes, I could have sought out GF bread to ensure we had a vehicle for putting all of this goodness on, thus making a form of “bruschetta,” if you know what I mean. However, in the interest of forgetting to buy bread and an equal interest in choosing to not include it, we were left with the main dish itself, and basically ate it all. 🙄🤦♀️
What can I say? It was really delicious. 😉
Thursday’s Dish: Scallops with Corn, Hazelnuts, and Brown Butter Chermoula. Seth’s at-home Birthday night Dinner!
Recipe: This recipe came from Dining In by Alison Roman.
GFMD: A favorite in this house! Naturally gluten free, this meal required no changes to make it GFMD-approved. And if it looks familiar, then that's because we have made it before. But this was Seth's birthday dinner, so he got to pick!
Outcome: A splendid birthday dinner for Seth! Seared scallops have quickly become one of our favorite foods for when we're feeling fancy and craving seafood. Plus, they're super quick to cook! A nice balance all around, if you ask me. Which you did, since you're reading this blog. ;)
The best elements of this dish are apparent when you eat some of everything on the plate all in one bite. A fork filled with scallop, corn, hazelnuts, and some fresh lime juice is a world of flavor you must experience. It is so delicious, fresh, and happy.
I find scallops to be a very happy seafood selection in general if not for any reason other than they are just very yummy. Also, the majority of times when I have eaten them, I have been in a good mood and/or am celebrating something or someone. I’m sure this happens for many people: associating specific dishes with celebratory events. Like a cake for a birthday party (keep reading!). Not rocket science, of course, but I like the association: scallops = happy times.
So, if you're looking for a dish to make when you want your guests to be extra-happy while they eat (they're already excited to see you), I'd strongly recommend this one. The colors, flavor, and general attitude of the plate, to me, just say "eat this. Be happy." And that's exactly what happened!
Friday + Weekend: And the celebrations continue! Seth's family came over for dinner on Friday night, and his brother served up some seriously great homemade pork carnitas tacos with every topping imaginable (think: homemade guacamole, multiple types of hot sauce, pickled onions, radishes, and cabbage slaw). And his mom made a super GF cake! A great way to toast Seth in our new home; birthdays are the best!
The rest of the weekend included more celebrations because I think birthdays should last a full week- wouldn't you agree? I made him a belated-birthday-buttermilk-biscuit-breakfast on Saturday, which had us immensely full and smiley, and then we capped the celebration at night with a relaxed, multi-course dinner at The Bancroft in Burlington, MA. So, lots of food at all hours of the day! Seems about right for us. :)
Sunday was our usual meal planning and organizing for the coming week, but with a twist!
Stay tuned for next week's dinners as we have got a really fun set planned and ready to go! I hope you had a delicious weekend and enjoyed some of your favorite foods, too. And maybe even celebrated a birthday or two? :)
Mollie and Seth