Weeknight meals

Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

I started a new job today. I’m really excited for an entirely new challenge, meeting new colleagues, and using my brain in new ways. More to come on that front.

Anyway, they say you should take time off between jobs. I didn’t really follow that advice. I took a couple of days, and I played catch-up on errands, sleeping, and mostly boring things. (I would have included quality time at the pool, but Mother Nature had other plans.) But, I did get to use some of that extra time for berry picking, making and canning salsa, and doing some prep cooking for the week ahead.

Here’s a quick weeknight dinner I whipped up to take advantage of zucchini season, utilize other ingredients I had on hand or was purchasing, and to create a no-leftover meal (between welcome events, navigating a new commute, and various social outings, leftovers would otherwise go uneaten).

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Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Per person:
2 teaspoons oil or fat of your choice
1 small zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon diced onion, if desired
4 oz. cooked shrimp, cut in half if large
Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, other seasonings, to taste
2 or 4 small corn tortillas, 2 flour tortillas, or 2 leaves Boston Bib lettuce

For serving, as desired: diced avocado, salsa, cilantro, lime wedges, etc

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, peppers, and onions; sauté until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add shrimp to pan; heat through. Season to taste with salt, pepper, chili powder, and/or cumin.
Meanwhile, heat tortillas (if using). Spoon filling into tortillas or lettuce leaves; serve with desired toppings.

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Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese

I’m not big on resolutions, but I do like goals. One of mine for 2014: eat more vegetables, more consistently. This recipe was borne out of a desire to do just that, especially during lunch, when salads leave me feeling unsatisfied and searching for sugar two hours later.

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I first made this easy bolognese with family over the holidays, and loved that it was hearty and filling on a cold day. Even my crunchy-vegetable-hating brother seemed to like it. At home, I took the recipe a step further by substituting spaghetti squash for traditional pasta. I had never cooked spaghetti squash myself, and it was surprisingly easy.

I divided the mixture into 6 portions and froze half for easy lunches down the road. Great with a green salad or even a cup of soup!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese

Serves about 6

1 medium spaghetti squash
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 cup diced mushrooms (I used half a package)
1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey)
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/3 cup (or more) shredded Parmesan cheese (Omit if observing a Paleo diet)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash spaghetti squash rind, halve lengthwise, and scoop out seeds and pulp. Place rind side up on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until fork-tender. When cool enough to touch, shred the squash with a fork, working the width of the squash. Place shredded squash in a colander; drain and discard excess liquid. (Make ahead: can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.) 

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up meat, until meat is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil; reduce to a simmer.

Toss squash, sauce and cheese in a large bowl. Season to taste.

Pork Tenderloin with Date-Cilantro Relish

Pork tenderloin is a go-to for weeknight dinners — quick, lean, and versatile, and not a lot of leftovers (important when you’re cooking for 1 or 2 and get  bored easily).

Dates are something new for me, and after a few bites adjusting to the texture, this recipe won me over. My grocery store carries dates in bulk, allowing me to buy just the quantity I needed.

Serve the pork with green vegetables, and if you want a starch, try rice, potatoes, or polenta (sweet potatoes or winter squash will be overwhelmingly sweet).

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Pork Tenderloin with Date-Cilantro Relish

From Bon Appetit

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pork tenderloin (about 1½ lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup Medjool dates (about 4 oz.), cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus leaves for serving

Preheat oven to 425°. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 6–8 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and cook pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 140°, 10–15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing; set aside pan drippings.

Toss dates, orange juice, reserved pan drippings, 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spoon relish over pork and top with cilantro leaves.