[Wednesdays at Eight] Rachel from Through Painted Deserts

[Honey-Bourbon Pulled Chicken from

Healthy. Delicious


 I am thrilled about starting this new blog series,

Wednesdays at Eight

. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to build community around the table, about everyday meals and celebrating the ordinary. I've been thinking about all the planning and preparation that comes before making dinner and the unique routines that make those dinners possible. 

This is my take on Bon Appetit's

My Morning Routine

. Breakfast has its own rituals of morning coffee, reading, sometimes frantic preparation for the day. Dinner is different. Dinner is about winding down. It's about experiencing gratitude for the day. It's about relief after a day of work and about sharing experiences over a meal. 

A billion thanks to Rachel for kicking this series off! Here's a peek into her dinner routine...

How you know her:

As the Director of Project Development at

Touch A Life Foundation

, Rachel works to support and advocate for vulnerable children around the world. You can find her blogging about life, food adventures, travel and community (I'm loving her recent post on

the harvest

) at

Through Painted Deserts


What is a typical weeknight like for you?

 I really like to eat at home as much as possible. I was so inspired to cook for myself more after reading

Bread & Wine

, a gorgeous memoir-meets-cookbook by one of my favorite authors,

Shauna Niequist

. It makes me feel so much better to eat at home, and cooking also allows me to feel like I’ve created something healthy and lovely for myself. I like to occasionally meet friends for cocktails or wine after work but I typically prefer to stay in during the week and cook for myself – after the hustle and bustle of the workday, it feels nice to relax and treat myself to good, wholesome foods.

I enjoy exercising after work – running,

Bikram yoga

, playing soccer, and

surf-inspired exercise classes

 are amongst my favorite activities – and I like preparing my meal plan at the beginning of the week so I can have food at the ready when I come home from working out (otherwise, I get hangry


!). I usually like to eat no later than 7:30 (because any later than that and I get


hangry) and I tend to set my little bistro table with a placemat and a pretty candle. Sitting down for dinner is a beautiful ritual, whether you’re alone or with company.

Thursday nights are always date nights with my fiancé, and we alternate between cooking at my apartment and trying new restaurants (Dallas is such an amazing hub for great new food).

Do you have any weeknight staples?

 I love salads – lately I’ve been making mine with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, avocado, shredded carrots, feta cheese, and Shauna Niequist’s basic vinaigrette (1/2 cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper, all shaken up in an old jelly jar) – and anything quinoa-based. I like to make a big pot of quinoa at the beginning of the week and throw whatever I have into it each night – sweet potatoes, avocados, black beans, roasted tomatoes, various cheeses, and spicy peppers have all made appearances. Crock-pot recipes are a winner, too – I particularly love

this honey-bourbon chicken dish

. I usually skip the buns and eat the chicken with plenty of pickles.

What’s on the menu for dinner tonight?

Speaking of quinoa, I have been


for this recipe that my friend’s mom used while cooking for us over Labor Day weekend. It calls for both cumin and chili pepper, and those spices really kick it up a notch. I like to add fresh avocado (not to the mixture itself but as a topping when I’m actually sitting down to eat it – I find that that tactic preserves the avo better) and sometimes even rotisserie chicken for extra protein. Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to try it for yourself.

Kay’s Quinoa with Black Beans, Tomatoes, Corn & Feta


15 minutes


50 minutes





¾ cup quinoa, rinsed


2 tsp canola oil


½ large onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)


¾ cup frozen corn


1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed


1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 1 and ½ cups)


1 tsp ground cumin


½ tsp chili powder


Juice of 2 to 3 limes (about 4 to 6 Tbsp)


3 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)


1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves


1 and ¼ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan on high heat. Stir in the quinoa and ¼ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is cooked through but still firm to the bite and the water is evaporated, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and rest, covered, 10 minutes.


the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the corn and cook 2 minutes, then add the beans and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the quinoa, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, and lime juice to taste and stir gently to combine. Stir in the feta and cilantro and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Wine? Dessert?

If I could, I would drink wine with my dinner and eat dessert after every meal – but my budget doesn’t quite permit for that sort of lifestyle.


Some of my favorite desserts include

Shauna Niequist's blueberry crisp

 (which is so versatile that it can be paired with

Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

 after dinner and with creamy Greek yogurt for breakfast the next day), lemon bars, and anything made with peanut butter (I’m dying to try

this recipe

, and also

these peanut butter-filled brownies

). I love wine, especially Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, and I can’t resist a glass of ice-cold Prosecco. Sometimes there’s no better treat than having


wine and dessert for dinner – and, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m speaking from experience. 

Thanks so much for sharing, Rachel!