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.

By Kimberly Holland
December 11, 2016
Photo: Jennifer Causey

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: Nutty Fried Rice and Orange, Red Onion, and Cilantro Salad
Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese and Pears and Lemony Braised Celery with Hazelnuts
Wednesday: Seared Tuna with Shaved Vegetable Salad
Thursday: Chicken and Butternut Gnocchi
Friday: Carne Asada Bowls and Cilantro and Almond Pilaf
Snack Bonus: Brownie Energy Bites

Are you recovering from a Christmas Day splurge? Had a few too many latkes last night at your Hanukkah celebration? Well, ditto. So this week, we're in recovery mode. Sunday Strategist meal plans typically feature only dinners. This week won't be any different, but if you're looking for a bit more structure and healthy holiday recovery, turn to our brand-new 3-Day Detox Plan. We have built a plan filled with food to help you reset and restart after all these holiday splurges. Do it this week to have a healthy few days of meals before one final New Year's splurge, or hang on to this for New Year's Day. Either way, this collection of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners is designed to be budget friendly and help you realign your eating so you can get back on track.

Monday: This hearty vegetarian Nutty Fried Rice is a fun twist on the usual takeout version of fried rice, incorporating lots of nutty flavor from toasted sesame oil, roasted cashews, peanut butter, and sesame seeds. The rice is drizzled with a savory, creamy peanut sauce that takes the whole thing right into indulgence territory. If you have a peanut allergy, opt for cashew, almond, or sunflower butter instead of peanut butter. Look for toasted sesame seeds on the spice aisle of your supermarket; it’s a great ingredient to keep on hand for busy nights because it saves a step. For a quick side, the bright, tangy flavors of this easy Orange, Red Onion, and Cilantro Salad make it the star of the sides show. Simply combine the ingredients, toss, and top with cilantro, if desired.

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Tuesday: To match the robust flavors of this Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese and Pears—pungent blue cheese, sweet-tart vinegar, sharp red onion—serve with a hearty salad like Lemony Braised Celery with Hazelnuts. The meal will feel decidedly Italian. If you love the pairing of pork and fruit with cheese, try playing around with a variation on the dish by using apples instead of pears and goat cheese in place of blue. To keep the pork perfectly cooked (and slightly pink in the center), remove it from the heat when the internal temperature is 140°F. As it stands, its temperature will continue to rise to the recommended safe temperature of 145°F without overcooking or drying out.

Photo: Romulo Yanes
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Wednesday: Root vegetables are a superpopular side in the winter, usually roasted until fully tender. But shaving them raw into a side dish salad is a fantastic alternative. They’re ready in just a few minutes, their earthy flavors stay vibrant, and a simple vinaigrette tenderizes them slightly while retaining a little crunch, balancing the velvety tuna in this Seared Tuna with Shaved Vegetable Salad. A mild olive oil that won’t compete with the vegetables or the tuna works here. Rice vinegar is not as tangy as other varieties. If you prefer a little more bite, try white wine or apple cider vinegar.

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Thursday: For Chicken and Butternut Gnocchi, gnocchi are the base for a simple toss with sweet butternut squash, rich chicken thighs, spinach, and sage. Prepared gnocchi is a fast cook’s dream. They don’t need to be boiled separately, take on a beautiful sear, and will hold up after a thorough sauté and simmer with other ingredients. A dollop of prepared pesto binds and brightens the dish. Look for prepeeled and cubed butternut squash to save even more time. Instead of spinach, you could also try tender baby kale. For a bit of heat, add 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper to the pan before you simmer the squash.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Friday: Our Carne Asada Bowls are a gluten-free take on a taco salad that uses seared flank steak in place of ground beef. Instead of a fried tortilla shell, crisp romaine lettuce forms the sturdy base for each salad with crunchy tortilla chips crumbled on top. Queso fresco is a firm, mild cheese—a great alternative to feta if you’re not a fan of the tang. Use as your go-to cheese for Mexican egg scrambles, burritos, or stuffed chiles. Keep the tortilla chips whole for scooping, or lightly crush them and sprinkle on top. Serve atop Cilantro and Almond Pilaf.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Snack Bonus: These 2-bite Brownie Energy Bites are rich, super chocolaty, and indulgent, with a crunchy hazelnut surprise in the middle. Amazingly, they contain absolutely no added sugar. Naturally sweet dates hit that note, so there’s no need for refined sugar. Each mini sweet also contains 3g fiber and 3g protein—a treat with benefits. We find one to be satisfying, but don’t feel a bit bad about eating two at a sitting—that’ll only set you back 220 calories. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week, or in the freezer up to 1 month (no need to thaw if frozen).

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

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