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Sunday Strategist: Delicious Dishes for Your Week

Here’s the gist. I love to cook. But it’s planning what to cook that sometimes totally stresses me out. Think of all the random Tuesday nights… it’s 5:30pm, you’re sitting in traffic and wondering what in the heck you’re going to be able to grab on your 5-minute sprint through the grocery store. Either that, or you’re wracking your brain trying to figure out what might be hiding in the freezer for you to thaw out and zap in the microwave for you and your family. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyone else out there with me?

What if someone did the planning for you? A personal assistant who just creates weekly menus out of thin air. Not just menus, but healthy menus that are fast – on the table in less than 45 minutes. Sound good? It does to me, too.

I’ve picked out some of our favorite fast recipes (and some of your favorites too, based on recipe ratings) that all work together to bring you a week’s worth of healthy, tasty meals.

Here’s this week's plan:

Monday: Let’s embrace Meatless Monday. I’m thinking mac and cheese. Mmmmm. I’m already excited about it. Blush Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes – ooey gooey, with juicy grape tomatoes and baby spinach. 30 minutes, start to finish.

Serve with Celery and Parsley Salad – It’s bright, crisp, and uber-refreshing. I never realized how good celery could be until I crunched down on this. If you don’t feel like splurging for the good Parmigiano Reggiano, that’s ok. Regular old Parmesan works, too.

And actually, any bright fresh green salad works with mac and cheese. I just needed a reason to give celery a gold star. It tends to get buried and forgotten down in the bottom of that fridge crisper. At least it does in my house.

Tuesday: Let’s make it TACO TUESDAY!! Everybody loves tacos, right? And they are a cinch to make. And superfast too. Like, SUPERfast. 20 minutes! Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream.

And here’s a little secret – make them even faster by using store-bought rotisserie chicken. Shhhh. I didn’t tell you that. Just don’t skip the slaw and avocado cream. It’s the best part.

Wednesday: Well, the weather is warming up down here in the South, and the beautiful, color-packed spring produce is starting to pop up in the market. How about showcasing the garlic, asparagus, and peas that make us love spring so much? Even better… let’s showcase them in a creamy pasta! Creamy Spring Pasta – 30 minutes to complete.  Luxuriously creamy.

If you decided to splurge on the Parmigiano-Reggiano for the celery salad on Monday, you’re in luck. It’s in this pasta too!

Quick tip: When you’ve grated the Parm-Reg (or Parmesan) cheese down to its stubby rind – freeze the rind. You can use it later to flavor your spring soups and sauces!

Thursday: The family has been calling out for steak and potatoes. Bring it to them in this bright, fresh salad. You get to dig that celery back out again, too. Warm Potato and Steak Salad – 30 minutes start to finish. And you don’t have to splurge on the tenderloin (unless, of course, you want too!) Flank steak makes a mighty tasty salad topper too. It’ll need to cook a little longer than the tenderloin – about 6 minutes each side. And be sure to let it rest about 5 minutes. Steak doesn't like to be rushed. Slice it across the grain, not with it. (Think, perpendicular, not parallel – that’s how I always remember).

Friday: The weekend is finally here. Let’s make it pizza night! If you've still got some of that asparagus and peas in your fridge leftover from Wednesday night’s Spring Pasta, then I’d say go for this one: It’s fresh out of our test kitchen, featured in the April issue! Spring Vegetable Pizza with Gremolata.

Or my other favorite from that issue, the Pizza Arrabbiata. It’s got some pancetta (center cut bacon works, too) and gooey part-skim mozzarella. What’s not to love? It’s a little spicy… like that linger-on-your-lips-and-smile kind of spicy. Mmmm. Arrabbiata means angry in Italian. So if you ever see that on a menu, know that you’ve got a little spice coming your way. Mmm. I love spice! Pair it with a bright green salad and a crisp white wine or beer.

Alright, your Sunday Strategist, signing off.  Cheers to a week of happy, healthy eating!

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