Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XXXIX
Welcome to the thirty-ninth Weeknight Dinner Recap! This week was filled with some amazing flavors and a couple dishes that I’m already eager to have again (and again!).
With the joy (?) of having to cook for myself one night, I’m also here to declare that while I love certain aspects of cooking, I am quite fortunate that Seth cooks for us each night. But don’t worry, I’m the (self-titled) meatball queen of our house so anytime you see those babies, you know I made them.
Once again, variety was the big winner here with meals spanning the globe which made us very happy and resulted in some incredible food.
So, let’s discuss dinner, shall we? I’m too hungry to talk about it any more!
Sunday’s Dish: Mom’s Stir-Fried Shrimp with Scallions
Source: Myers and Chang at Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz
GFMD: Naturally gluten free! Just remember to check labels for specific ingredients, such as ketchup and chicken stock, to make sure they are labeled properly.
Outcome: When sorting through books and recipes to select this week, a number of them were calling to me (again) from this book. But this recipe, in particular, spoke to me because it came from the “Family Meal” section, which is a set of dishes not offered on the regular menu (as far as I am aware). Secret foods?! I wanted to know more.
This dish is one that Joanne Chang’s mother used to make for her when she was a child growing up, and all she wanted was more traditional American foods and flavors (hot dogs), but was served this as a snack instead. Honestly? I’d rather eat this!! Most certainly way more delicious (and nutritious) than any snack I was eating after school, this dish was super simple and quick, but delivered a major punch of flavor and joy.
What’s the secret to this easy stir fried shrimp? Ketchup! No kidding. This is not a joke! There was a hefty amount of ketchup in this stir fry sauce which both delighted and surprised us both. Delight because it made the dinner feel relaxed - ketchup is a calm condiment. Surprise because I loved the meal so much!
While ketchup has been a familiar flavor my entire life, I had been avoiding it recently for the simple reason of: why use it? We pack our meals with so many other, more exciting flavors that adding in something as “regular” as ketchup seemed unnecessary. Apparently, we’ve been mistaken!
This stir fried shrimp with ketchup, scallions, and a few other ingredients came together fast; in less than 20 minutes (!) we were feasting on this straight-forward, but awesomely scrumptious, dinner.
And, for the record, I would totally have this as an after-school snack. ;)
Monday’s Dish: Mellow Fried Rice with turkey and kale
Source: Loosely (very) on the Thai Fried Rice from Dinner by Melissa Clark.
GFMD: Using gluten free soy sauce (Tamari) this dish was entirely gluten free. Yay!
Outcome: OK, have we discussed that I’m not the biggest fan of actually cooking? There’s a reason that Seth handles it every night and it’s not just because he’s really good at it. He’s also much more patient (while hungry) and willing to follow the recipe sets I send his way each week. Plus, he really enjoys cooking!
I, on the other hand, am quite impatient while hungry and tend to make grand declarations of what I want to eat, but am frustrated by the actual cooking process (this makes me sound like a joy, huh?). And yet, I love baking! I find it fun, exciting, and really rewarding. But cooking dinner? While very hungry? Extremely difficult. For me.
However, life isn’t always fair and Seth had to work late, leaving me to fend for myself. I had known about this plan in advance so I scheduled a very simple dinner for me to make in his absence: fried rice.
I’ve made it many times over the years and it has become my go-to dinner for when I’m on my own. As long as you have some cold rice in the fridge, some veggies, and meat (or not), this is a great dinner option.
So how did mine kind of turn upside down? Well, I’m not sure! I may have been a little heavy-handed with the seasonings, a little impatient waiting for elements to cook, and uh, I’m still sad that I chose ground turkey as the protein rather than chicken or some form of sausage (as the recipe I referenced requested).
It didn’t taste bad at all, but it wasn’t the flavor I wanted or expected (which is the same as tasting bad, in a way). Then why did I choose it? Who knows, my friends, sometimes we make crazy decisions and have no idea why it happens. That was definitely the case with elements of this dish.
While the final product was good enough and packed with kale, onions, scallions, and turkey, I must admit I was disheartened by my impatience and the end result.
I had been craving a major bowl of awesome fried rice comfort, and yes, I was kind of eating that, but I knew I had skipped a few steps in the name of time, and too-hungry-to-care, AKA careless cooking, which led me to a dinner that was filling, but not nearly as “yahoo!” as I had hoped.
Until next time... Thankfully, Seth’s home and cooking for the rest of the week! Yahoo! ;)
Tuesday’s Dish: Garlic Herb Spaghetti with Baked Chicken (Turkey) Meatballs
Source: Pinch of Yum (blog and IG account)
GFMD: Easily made gluten free! Simply use GF pasta (we used Jovial Foods GF fettuccine), and use GF Panko in the meatball mixture. We used Panko from Aleia’s Gluten Free Foods. No other modifications had to be done!
Outcome: As soon as I saw this dish’s photo featured on the Pinch of Yum blog, I immediately saved it and wrote a note to include it in this week’s plan. Not only am I always excited to find great pasta options online, but I’m extra-excited when recipes like these include meatballs!
The appeal of a pasta like this one is the variety of textures and flavors that could be great individually, but really make a splash when brought all together. A strong veggie, a light sauce, and a yummy protein, all brought together by the always-welcome pasta is a combination I’ll never turn down. And it’s one that I have come to adore - any day of the week!
For this dinner we used the brand-new Jovial Foods GF fettuccine, and modified the recipe just a smidge for our flavor preferences: we used kale instead of spinach (kale club!) and turkey for the meatballs instead of chicken. While you certainly could stick to the recipe’s recommendations, I was excited for these slight changes.
Also, you need to use GF Panko for the meatball mixture to ensure they are gluten free. We chose Aleia’s Gluten Free Foods Panko breadcrumbs for ours which worked perfectly.
Did you catch the Insta-live of me making these meatballs?! I’m the meatball queen of our house and I made 29 perfectly round little bites for our dish. The recipe called for 30. I made 29. Then one fell on the floor! So we had 28 which is a nice, round number and made me feel way better. ;)
The convenience of baking meatballs is not lost on us, either. How easy is it?! And it uses a lot less oil and stovetop space which is crucial during dinner time. These beauties baked for the requested time which we may lessen on our next meatball-baking venture. They were delicious, but I’d say a tad overdone in the center. Not as juicy as I prefer. You may disagree! That’s OK. To each their own meatball done-ness.
The balance of flavors on this final plate was my favorite: buttery and garlicky pasta, bold kale, and small bites of turkey meatball that acted as a fun little surprise amidst the other elements. A strong meal that would satisfy every palate, but it’s also an open door in regard to personalization.
We look forward to making this yummy dish again and making a few tweaks to increase the spice level and definitely cook our meatballs (chicken next time) a bit less. I can’t wait!
Of note: there was also white wine in the sauce which was delightful and a squeeze of fresh lemon that was a perfect final touch. :)
Wednesday’s Dish: Greek Lamb Meatballs with Avocado Goddess Sauce
Source: Half Baked Harvest (online) by Tieghan Gerard
GFMD: What a win - this was naturally gluten free! No modifications necessary for this one.
Outcome: While I do lean toward cookbook-only recipes for our meals, sometimes I wander into the blogs of my favorite books to see if there’s even more goodness to be found. And one such blog that continues to just give and give is Half Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard (her brother is an Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding!).
New recipes are featured often and she is turning out incredible flavor combos constantly. Plus, she seems like a great person who is working hard at what she does. And what she’s doing is producing awesome recipes that yield pretty darn amazing food. Case in point: tonight’s meal.
The truth is that we love meatballs. Yes, we had them the night before, but in a totally different way with entirely different flavors. So, to me, you cannot even compare the two dishes in which meatball was the main component. It’s just not allowed! Well, it is allowed, but take your frustration elsewhere. Here is where we are celebrating the mighty meatball in all of its versatility and scrumptiousness.
What’s better than a meatball? A LAMB meatball. Every single time we make them, and we’ve tried a handful of different recipes at this point, I get so giddy and happy from the result. The flavor is fabulous and I cannot get enough. Lucky for us, this recipe turned out just perfect, too!
Not only were the lamb meatballs, a crucial part of this dinner - super delicious- the other main “dish” of the meal was the avocado goddess sauce. We haven’t made many a sauce with avocado, but I’m glad we finally did and will definitely be doing that again.
Admittedly, I did not pay attention to Seth making the sauce as I was forming the meatballs (on Insta Live), and all I could notice was our blender making a lot of noise (AKA working properly). But! I am happy to announce that the sauce itself was scrumptious! A little spicy and savory, this sauce was the exact right pairing to go with the lamb.
And the consistency was great: thick without being too much so that you could happily dip your meatball-filled fork and get a good amount for every bite. While it did not taste like avocado, I was glad to know it was in there and I’ll be glad to try more avocado-based sauces in the future. Yum!
You may notice that our plates were filled with so many different ingredients, but not a grain in sight. The recipe suggested a couple non-GF options to serve under the mass of everything, but we opted out of including anything else.
This meal was packed with so many foods I love that it seemed completely unnecessary to add more, specifically a grain. But, I could see another iteration where we do make rice or quinoa to serve alongside it with the hope that it would keep us from eating all of the meatballs. 😮 Don’t worry, we didn’t finish the batch! They were pretty rich so yes, I had more than three, but less than all of them. 😉
Once more, let’s hear it for Greek lamb meatballs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and plenty of avocado sauce and hummus for dipping - plus a crumble of feta! Cheers to this naturally gluten free and majorly delicious dinner. I cannot wait to enjoy it again. :)
Thursday’s Dish: Red Curry Cauliflower with Tofu
Source: Myers and Chang at Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz
GFMD: Surprise, surprise - naturally gluten free! Yippee! And here you go: it was vegetarian and vegan as well!
Outcome: When it comes to my willingness to choose full-on vegan meals, I’d say my excitement level is usually medium. Not disappointed, not overly excited, just medium. But! My view on that has definitely changed and I think it’s due to this dish and curry. Mostly the latter.
Curry is a food that I was (once again) wary of making at home because I’ve enjoyed it in restaurants many times and was skeptical of how good a homemade one could be (since it’s not something we make often). However, over the last several months, we’ve found a handful of awesome recipes for curry and have been blown away every time!
Serves me right for being nervous; every time I worry I end up loving the food even more than I expect! 🤗
For this dinner in particular, it was a red curry (yum) with cauliflower and tofu. No meat. At all. A former version of me would definitely have subbed in chicken or shrimp for that tofu, but since we were using the Myers and Chang at Home cookbook again, I decided to let the experts over there tell us what to do. No substitutions! And miraculously, the recipe was already gluten free. Rejoice!
Turns out you don’t need meat to make one heck of a delicious dinner. In fact, I didn’t miss it at all! The cauliflower and tofu, when cooked separately (then together) in the wok, had such perfect textures and really soaked up the amazing red curry sauce that eventually covered everything. We were in heaven with the final flavor of this dish!
As a result of this meal I learned, again, that I really love red curry (and tofu! Surprise!). This one had an extra heft of spice from the hearty amount of red curry paste and curry powder, but not so much heat that you couldn’t happily inhale it.
I’ve also decided that coconut milk, while not always the picture of health, is a crucial and incredible flavor you need in your life, especially for a dinner like this one. It was part of the red curry recipe and since we had not had this sort of meal in a while, I welcomed it with very open arms and tastebuds.
We are such fans of this cookbook and I just can’t stop using it at least once a week (this week featured two, new and delicious dishes) because the results are always incredible. Bold, bright flavors mixed with familiar ingredients and then combined to create dinners that make my mouth drop wide open after the first bite. Every time.
While I finally have my new stack of books to mark up, this one will always be close by, no matter what. :)
Friday + Weekend: Hello, weekend! And what a busy, but fun-filled one it was! So many delicious meals, lots of family, new friends, and celebrating all of the mothers!! Yes, it was Mother’s Day weekend!
On Friday night, we went to Public Kitchen, one of our new local favorites which has a lot of GF options as well as friendly staff and a relaxed, joyful atmosphere. Much to my surprise and delight, the nachos were gluten free! Hooray!
Corn tortilla chips (no cross-contamination) and all of the necessary toppings, we now have a super-close restaurant option when we need to fulfill that Friday-night-nacho need. Plus, they offer gluten free crusts for their pizzas so I’m a seriously happy camper! It’s ultra-comforting to know that when you just want an easy dinner out that’s delicious and safe, you don’t need to go far from home. We will definitely visit again!
Saturday was another day of new adventures as we spent the morning with a great group of gluten free Insta-grammers at the 100% gluten free bakery/cafè Twist in Millis, MA. Wow!! Their brunch was awesome, their sweets were delicious, and the entire experience was just fantastic.
It was so fun to meet others with Celiac (in person) so we could really talk openly about the troubles and triumphs of living with this disease (and get to know each other too!). And we just couldn’t get over how amazing the restaurant was given that we could have ANYTHING we wanted. A true delight!
The rest of Saturday and Sunday was spent with our families celebrating Mother’s Day with homemade cake, lots of flowers, and a hearty portion of great food around every corner. I’m quite grateful to be able to have so many wonderful people to celebrate this time of year and I know we are very fortunate in that regard.
Our moms (and grandmothers!) are extremely important to us and it was so nice to be able to spend time with everyone. :) We hope they all had a great weekend as well! Happy Mother’s Day!
Eventually, we wrangled a set of new recipes from five (!) new cookbooks and got to our grocery shopping and usual Sunday plans, plus laundry because #adulting. While it was a very busy weekend, it was filled with new friends, lots of family, and a lot of great food. And I wouldn’t want it any other way! ❤️
We hope you had a happy weekend and that it was spent celebrating the women in your life that you love and appreciate the most. Hopefully there was some delicious food involved, too. ;)
Mollie and Seth