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Sunday Strategist: A Week of Healthy Dinners — December 12-16

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Every Sunday, we publish a week of Cooking Light dinner plans filled with our favorite recipes—both from current issues and classics. Each meal is designed to be ready and on the table in about an hour so that you have more time to enjoy the food you’ve prepared and the company of those you’ve prepared it for.

If you like having a healthy meal plan but want something customized to your dietary or caloric needs, check out The Cooking Light Diet. It’s a calorie-driven weekly meal plan—breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner—based on your dieting goals and food preferences.

The Plan
Monday: Farfalle with Butternut Squash and Browned Butter and Lemon Brussels Sprouts
Tuesday: Cheesy Chicken Cutlets with Ham and Jam and Pan-Charred Green Beans with Tarragon
Wednesday: Mushroom Bolognese over Spaghetti Squash and Arugula and Golden Beet Salad
Thursday: Sausage and Spinach Spaghetti Pie and Miso Roasted Cauliflower
Friday: Quick Chicken Minestrone and French Bread with Cauliflower Cheese Sauce
Dessert Bonus: Iced Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies

Photo: Randy Mayor

Monday: Take advantage of inexpensive butternut squash that should be plentiful in your grocery store right now by making our meat-free Farfalle with Butternut Squash. A tasty bow tie recipe makes for a quick and easy weeknight meal. Packed with protein and fiber in the form of walnuts and butternut squash, this heart-healthy pasta dish can be on your table in 20 minutes! Serve with Browned Butter and Lemon Brussels Sprouts to finish off the plate.

Tuesday: Think of Cheesy Chicken Cutlets with Ham and Jam as a play on chicken cordon bleu, one that’s much easier to prepare. Instead of splitting and stuffing chicken breasts with ham and cheese, we broil chicken cutlets until done and simply top them with ham, cheese, and a touch of blackberry jam. The sweetness is a delightful surprise that pairs nicely with all the savory elements. We tested the dish with cheddar, which you could use in a pinch, but the nutty, tangy flavor of Havarti makes it feel more special. As Recipe Developer Adam Hickman says, “It ain’t a party without Havarti.” Serve with a side of family-favorite green beans. We recommend these Pan-Charred Green Beans with Tarragon. You won't regret taking a little extra time to char the beans once you realize how much flavor the cooking technique imparts on this simple side.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Wednesday: In this Mushroom Bolognese over Spaghetti Squash, we swap traditional pasta for gluten-free spaghetti squash in this meatless main. Roasted until tender and scraped with a fork, the squash comes apart in noodle-like strands that hold the sauce well. Roast an extra squash, scrape out the flesh, and store in ziplock plastic bags for a quick side during the week. A blend of mushrooms—dried porcini and fresh cremini and button—mimic the texture of ground beef while adding plenty of savory depth. You could substitute 1/4 cup of the canned tomato liquid for a dry red wine to add even more body to the sauce. While the squash roasts and the bolognese cooks down, pull together an easy salad like this Arugula and Golden Beet Salad. Raw beets have a subtle earthiness and a wonderful crunch when thinly sliced. The tart vinaigrette will soften the slices slightly.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Thursday: Meet your new favorite casserole recipe: Sausage and Spinach Spaghetti Pie. This budget-friendly dish (costing under $10) allows you to stretch a small amount of meat over several servings. It's family friendly, filling, and loaded with flavor--the perfect weeknight meal. The high heat on this recipe allows it to cook quickly, crisping the spaghetti slightly on the outside to make the perfect "pie crust" for this dish. You can use crumbled sausage in this dish, or start with Italian sausage and remove the casing, which is what the recipe calls for. Remove the casing by cutting up the side with a knife or kitchen shears, then crumble the sausage using a spoon in the skillet as it cooks. Serve with Miso Roasted Cauliflower. Does it seem weird to serve miso with an Italian casserole? Eh, maybe. But I think the umami satisfaction you'll get from the cauliflower will trump any odd-couple pairing feelings. Get a little extra cauliflower. We're going to make a cheesy spread for tomorrow night's side.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Friday: Fresh, brightly colored vegetables add some welcome vibrancy to this comforting Quick Chicken Minestrone. Have fun with the noodle shape, or use any small pasta you have on hand. If you'd like, sprinkle each serving with freshly ground black pepper for a finishing touch. This quirky twist on the classic recipe is a perfect combination of the hearty vegetable minestrone soups of your childhood and comforting chicken noodle soup. We love the alphabet shape noodles, which encourage pint-sized palates to enjoy their dinner. Pair this soup recipe with French Bread with Cauliflower Cheese Sauce for the best of cool weather flavor.

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Claire Spollen

Dessert Bonus: Once you've put away the pots and pans from dinner, it's time to pull out the cookie cutters and sprinkles. Tonight, we're making Iced Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies for a fun and festive finish to the week.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

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