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Sunday Strategist: A Week of Healthy Menus--October 13-17

As we move further into October, most of the ingredients making their way into my kitchen come with a mission of  creating robust and warming flavors. This week’s menu makes use of some of my favorites—think toasty nuts, crisp apples, deep rich browned butter, etc.—and relies largely on pantry staples you may already have on hand. Get the plan below, then get on to some autumn eats.

Monday: Blue Cheese Polenta with Vegetables and Green Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette Tuesday: Cider-Glazed Chicken with Browned Butter-Pecan Rice and Citrusy Carrots with Parsley Wednesday: Steak, Pear, and Watercress Salad Thursday: Pasta Pork Bolognese and Lemon-Parmesan Broccoli Friday: Thai Shrimp Curry and Steamed Snap Peas with Wasabi Butter Dessert Bonus: Bacon-Pretzel-Peanut Butter Caramel Apples

Monday: Is there really a better way to celebrate meatless Monday than with a heap of super savory veggies piled high on bed of creamy, dreamy grains? I’m gonna go with a big ol’ No. Crumbled gorgonzola instills this rich polenta with bold blue flavor that gracefully compliments the inherent umami of the mushrooms sitting on top. Such a  hearty dish begs for leafy green salad as a side. Hazelnut oil and red wine vinegar come together for the base of this simple salad’s dressing and deliver a beautiful balance of nutty sweetness and bright tang. Happy Monday to your mouth.

Blue Cheese Polenta with Vegetables

Green Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Tuesday: Can we just take a second to count off the number of descriptors here that say, “Oh hey fall, I adore everything about you,” please? Cider-glazed, browned butter, butter-pecan, citrusy carrots… seriously, I love everything about this situation. Here’s the deal—a mere 3 ingredients (butter, apple cider, and mustard) cook down to create a tangy-sweet and glossy glaze that loads more robust vibrancy onto a chicken breast cutlet than you ever dreamed possible. Accept it, and enjoy it. The accompanying rice is a shining illustration of supermarket shortcut victory.  Using boil-in-bag brown rice allows you to get whole grains on the plate fast, while doctoring these plain Jane grains up with flavor-forward accents—cue browned butter and toasted pecans—lends the dish a layer of delicious sophistication with next-to-no effort on the cook’s part. On a Tuesday night, you best believe that’s my kind of food. Brighten the neutral toned-plate with a burst of bright color and flavor via some citrus-kissed and parsley-studded carrots.

Cider-Glazed Chicken with Browned Butter-Pecan Rice

Citrusy Carrots with Parsley

Wednesday: You’ve made it halfway through the work week—way to be! Treat yourself with a flavor heavy, light prep supper. Wednesday’s call for a healthful recharge meal built on fresh vedge and strong protein to power you towards the glorious beacon of the weekend (i.e. Friday).  A simple green salad topped with succulent seared flank steak and crisp, juicy pear sounds just about right. Topped with leftover gorgonzola not used in Monday’s polenta, this well-rounded entrée hits all the right notes for superior salad satisfaction. Feel free to substitute leftover greens from Monday or arugula for the watercress. And if you happen to have a handful of pecans left from making last night’s rice… it sure wouldn’t hurt  to toss them on top for added crunch and protein (but be sure to mentally account for added calories/fat). To get a bit of whole grain action happening up in here, serve you salad with 1-ounce slices of crusty multi-grain bread.

Steak, Pear, and Watercress Salad

Thursday: The idea of having a Bolognese sauce that emits a sense of coziness, as well as fully-developed flavors, done and ready for devouring in less than 20 minutes is probably the most miraculous thing I’ve come across this week. Which is why I was obligated to share this recipe.  As someone who has witnessed and tasted the results of her grandmother and great-grandmother bent over  cutting boards, chopping up out of season supermarket tomatoes to make their “red sauce” year after year, I can say with confidence and sincerity that in the right applications and with the right enhancements, there is absolutely no shame in leaning on a solid jarred tomato sauce when necessary. Fresh basil, garlic cloves, and grated carrot add layers of fresh flavor to the sauce, while red wine intensifies and adds depth. As for our side  dish, fresh crisp broccoli is good... fresh crisp broccoli dressed with lemon, garlic, and shaved parmesan is way better. That’s all.

Pasta Pork Bolognese

Lemon-Parmesan Broccoli

Friday: T.G.I.F—now, let’s have some fun in the kitchen. If anything says “fun” more eloquently than curry, I sure don’t know what it is. This dish brings in loads of vivacious flavors and textures that provide a great opportunity to bring the kids into the kitchen to help with chopping (for the older kiddos) and measuring/mixing. Sweet and snappy peas tossed in bold wasabi butter are a perfect veggie to round out this lively meal.

Thai Shrimp Curry

Steamed Snap Peas with Wasabi Butter

 Dessert Bonus: There are only 5 things you need to know about this recipe. They are as follows: 1.) bacon 2.) pretzels 3.) peanut butter 4.) caramel 5.) apples You’re welcome. Happy weekend!

Bacon-Pretzel-Peanut Butter Caramel Apples