A little bit of the black bean liquid brings the chunky mash together. The mash also helps to hold all the filling in place.

Photo: Romulo Yanes

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.

Kimberly Holland
January 13, 2017

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:
Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad
Tuesday: Broiled Flat Iron Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes
Wednesday: Lemon and Dill Quinoa Chicken Soup and Ricotta and Sweet Pea Toasts
Thursday: Shrimp and Black Bean Tacos and Sautéed Haricots Verts with Red Bell Pepper and Lemon
Friday: Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Onions and Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette
Brunch Bonus: Pear and Bacon Whole-Grain French Toast

Monday

It may seem too good to be true, but it’s not: This impressive Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad requires only 5 ingredients (water, oil, salt, and pepper are considered freebies). Microwaved sweet potatoes are sliced into medallions, brushed with oil, and lightly seared so they become satisfyingly steak-like. The creamy, nutty sauce adds richness, and the lemon-dressed arugula-chickpea salad bulks up the plate beautifully. In place of almond butter, you could substitute any nut butter you like—peanut, cashew, or sunflower butter would be delicious. And if canned chickpeas aren’t in your pantry, you can use another mild legume; try cannellini or navy beans.

Photo: Greg Dupree

Tuesday

This one-pan Broiled Flat Iron Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes meal is a crowd-pleaser and testament to how 4 ingredients can come together to form a supremely satisfying dish, ready in a flash. We use an old-school cooking trick here and broil the steak directly over the veggies so the meat juices baste them as they caramelize. If you can’t find flat iron, flank steak also works well here, but we like the flavor and texture variety in a large flat iron cut. Brussels sprouts, coaxed to crispy golden brown in the broiler, pair beautifully with the broiled sweet potatoes, which balance the light, pleasant bitterness in the sprouts.

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Wednesday

This bright, vegetable-laden Lemon and Dill Quinoa Chicken Soup is a reminder of warm spring days to come, but comforting enough to soothe on a cold night. Quinoa cooks right in the soup without soaking up too much liquid. If you’d like to change to a heartier grain like farro or barley, cook it separately and stir in during the last 5 minutes of simmering to reheat. You could also use any combination of delicate green vegetables, such as snow peas, spinach, or even frozen green peas or edamame. Stir in a little fresh lemon juice for an extra dose of brightness before serving. These lovely Ricotta and Sweet Pea Toasts make the crunchy side for this slurpable soup.

Photo: Jennifer CaUsey

Thursday

We're moving Taco Tuesday to Thursday because we can, and these Shrimp and Black Bean Tacos are worth the honor. A hefty amount of toasty cumin adds deep flavor to quickly seared shrimp, while a wee bit of ground red pepper punches above its weight, contributing a fair amount of heat. Don’t worry, though—once the shrimp gets tossed into corn tortillas with avocado, rice, and beans, the heat is muted so the tacos are perfectly seasoned. Be sure to reserve a bit of the bean liquid before you drain the beans; that liquid helps bring the chunky mash together. If your family doesn’t love shrimp, you can make the tacos with an equal weight of cubed, boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Serve with Sautéed Haricots Verts with Red Bell Pepper and Lemon to round out the meal with a delicious vegetable side.

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Friday

While pork tenderloin often roasts in the oven after an initial pan sear, you can easily cook it start to finish on the stovetop. The key is medium heat, which gradually builds a tasty brown crust as you turn the meat, but won’t overcook the outside before the interior is done. Use a stainless steel pan instead of a nonstick for this Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Onions, if possible. A stainless surface will better collect fond (browned bits) from the pork, lending rich flavor to the mushrooms and onions as they cook. Use your oven instead to make Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette.

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Brunch Bonus

Most of us instinctively go for a sweet, starchy breakfast—jam-topped bagels, honey-tinged wheat flakes, syrup-drizzled waffles—but research shows that refined flour and sugar are the worst foods to eat after an overnight fast. Switch up your weekend morning routine, and skip the sugary cereal. A sensible diet has a little wiggle room for added sugars, but don't use them all up by 9 a.m. Break the fast with this whole-grain French toast topped with a salt-sweet combo of pear slices, bacon, and umami-rich Parmesan cheese.

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

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