Ann Pittman
October 04, 2015

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 45 minutes or less 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 PlanMonday: Crunchy Whole-Wheat Veggie Pizzas + Escarole and Bean SautéTuesday: Fast Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash + Herbed Corn MuffinsWednesday: Wild Mushroom Farfalle + Braised Balsamic Endive and RadicchioThursday: Speedy Shepherd's Pie + Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with BaconFriday: Crispy Rice with Ham and Bean Sprouts + Ginger-Sesame Green BeansDessert Bonus: Blood Orange Cannoli Cups

Monday: I like to start the week off easy, with something I know will be a hit with the family. Can't go wrong with pizza! Crunchy Whole-Wheat Veggie Pizzas use whole-grain tortillas as the base, so you don't have to fuss with rolling or shaping dough. Escarole and Bean Sauté is a flavor-packed side dish that's warm, creamy, and comforting. If you can't find escarole, no worries—just use kale or spinach instead. You may have leftovers; try taking them to work for lunch with a little flaked canned tuna on top.

Tuesday: Don't think you have time for a big ol' pot of chili? Think again: Fast Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash is done in just 30 minutes flat. And you can make it even faster if you pick up a package of fresh cubed, peeled butternut from the produce section. Serve with a basket of Herbed Corn Muffins, the perfect chili complement. (Oh, and if you don't have parsley and thyme for the muffins, it's fine to leave them out.)

Photo: Iain Bagwell

Wednesday: Wild Mushroom Farfalle is just perfect for a busy fall night because it's fast, easy, and oh-so-richly-comforting. Fresh dill lifts the earthy flavor of the mushrooms with its bright, tangy notes; if you'd rather indulge in something woodsier, try 1 tablespoon rosemary or thyme. Braised Balsamic Endive and Radicchio is a sophisticated go-with; the braising process softens the bitter edge of the lettuces, while balsamic adds sweetness. Cooked, it's silky and seriously addictive.

Thursday: Some nights, you just need flat-out comfort food. Speedy Shepherd's Pie to the rescue! Check out this online review, in which the kid-friendliness of this dish is confirmed: "7 year old rolled his eyes and moaned." Pretty compelling, no? Kick up the comfort even more with a side of Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. Because bacon.

Friday: Though takeout may be calling, take the high road and make your own healthier version! Crispy Rice with Ham and Bean Sprouts takes only 20 minutes to make and uses only five (yes, five!) ingredients. Ginger-Sesame Green Beans taste like takeout, too, and are done in less than 10 minutes. What a great way to kick off the weekend!

Dessert Bonus: Want a cannoli fix, but not the amount of effort it takes to make them (or the calories that come from bakery versions)? Blood Orange Cannoli Cups satisfy with sweetened citrusy ricotta that's loaded cleverly into purchased phyllo shells. They're really rather adorable, too.

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