Sunday Strategist: A Week of Healthy Menus — April 14-18
It’s not the dread of cooking that deters so many of us from the kitchen each night; it’s actually deciding what to cook from the millions of options bombarding us from so many different places. Here, we’ve done the planning for you. Not just menus, but healthy menus that are fast—on the table in less than 45 minutes. Still ecstatic that warmer days are here to stay, we can't get enough of spring's bounty of fresh flavors. Let us raise a glass and welcome the parade of warm weather fruits, veggies, and herbs with open arms (and mouths).
The PlanMonday: Tomato and Asparagus "Carbonara" and Spinach with Garlic VinaigretteTuesday: Thai Steak SaladWednesday: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Pickled Squash and Romesco Mayonnaise and Broccoli with Red Pepper Flakes and Toasted GarlicThursday: Herbes de Provence-Crusted Lamb Chops and Fresh English Pea Salad with Mint and PecorinoFriday: Seared Tuna with Avocado Salsa and Double Sesame RiceCocktail Bonus: Frozen Lemonade with Coconut Rum
Monday: Nothing says spring quite like the sweet, grassy flavor of peak-season asparagus. The crisp stalks matched with juicy cherry tomatoes and a velvety carbonara sauce in our Tomato and Asparagus "Carbonara" is nothing short of palatal paradise. This creamy sauce is created by quickly tossing cooked pasta with an egg/cheese mixture, allowing heat radiating from the just-boiled noodles to gently cook the egg. Once tossed with a bit of moisture from your sautéed veggies, this egg mixture transforms to a light and silky coating over the pasta. Although the recipe only calls for 2 ounces of pecorino Romano cheese, go ahead and purchase at least 4 oz while you're grocery shopping to use later in the week. You'll also want to load up on the basil and make sure you have 2 pints of cherry tomatoes in your grocery cart. Toss together a simple and satisfying salad of Spinach with Garlic Vinaigrette to add a bit more green to your plate.
Tuesday: I'm an easy sell for a single-dish meal, especially one loaded up on crisp veggies, fresh herbs, and one of my personal favorite cuts of beef. Enhanced with a lime and soy sauce-based dressing, the ever-versatile flank steak shines in this vibrant, Asian-inspired Thai Steak Salad. All your steak needs is a quick sear (about 6 minutes) on each side; while it rests, toss together the produce and you're ready to eat. Fresh cilantro, basil, and mint may seem like a lot of herbs to purchase for a single dish, but you'll need them for other dinners this week—cheers to efficiency!
Of course, even better than buying herbs is being able to pluck your own... It's looking like a lovely time to plant an herb garden, right?
Wednesday: There are so many great things going on with the Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Pickled Squash and Romesco Mayonnaise—the bright vinegary punch from the quick-pickled summer squash, the smokiness lent by a romesco-inspired mayo, and the peppery bite of fresh arugula. All this goodness is loaded onto succulent chicken breasts layered within crusty focaccia rolls... now, how's that for a mouthful? As dynamic as these restaurant-worthy sandwiches are, you can pull them together in 40 minutes—no sweat. That leaves you just enough time to whip up our Broccoli with Red Pepper Flakes and Toasted Garlic. Beyond bringing vitamins C, A, K, and other nutrients to the table, this makes a stellar go-to side dish because you need not put a lot of effort in to get a lot of flavor out.
Thursday: Lamb is so often reserved for special occasions, but I say we remove the mental "off limits" sign and declare this Thursday as lamb-worthy a day as any other. After all, Thursday is Friday eve (Good Friday eve this week), and that's reason enough to celebrate with a spectacular meal. The simple dry herb and mustard rub that creates a flavorful crust on the Herbes de Provence-Crusted Lamb Chops is equally delightful on chicken thighs or beef fillets. And on that note, you may want to hold onto this recipe—we're heading into the heat of grilling season and it can never hurt to have a reliable rub on deck. The delicate, mint-studded Fresh English Pea Salad with Mint and Pecorino is equally easy to prepare and acts as a lovely compliment to the lamb's bold flavor. Incorporating pecorino Romano cheese into this dish provides just enough saltiness to balance out the sweetness of peas and mint, while the arugula lends a pleasantly bitter contrast.
Friday: It's finally Friday—break out the fish, we're about to get this party started. But before you go to work on the tuna, toss together the ingredients for your Avocado Salsa so that all of the fresh flavor components have a few minutes to marinate with each other. The lime juice, cilantro, and creamy avocado in this topper help to highlight the best assets of such a hearty and succulent fish. Speaking of, the trick to developing a nice crust on tuna steaks without over cooking the center is to make sure your pan is hot. Drip a drop of water into the pan... if it hisses and spits back at you, you're ready to cook and if it doesn't, get that pan hotter. Once your pan reaches a good heat level, you'll only need to cook the fish for about two minute per side. Boosted with both sesame oil and sesame seeds, a 1/2-cup serving of Double Sesame Rice makes a tasty bed for your salsa-topped tuna steak.
Cocktail Bonus: What could possibly say, "Welcome to the weekend" like a tall glass of icy lemonade? My guess would be a tall glass of icy lemonade spiked with coconut rum. Meet our Frozen Lemonade with Coconut Rum. This sweet and playful warm weather cocktail calls for only three ingredients and a quick whir in the blender. For younger sippers, you can replace the rum with coconut water or fruit juice. Now pour a glass, kick back, and toast to yet another delectable week down.