Sunday Strategist: A Week of Healthy Menus—December 15-19
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. This week's recipes are all featured in the Cooking Light Diet, our new calorie-driven weekly meal planner. If you like what you see, then check out CookingLightDiet.com to learn how you can lose weight without giving up the foods you love.
Monday: Butternut Squash Pizza and a simple green saladTuesday: Lemon Pepper Flank Steak Tacos and Pinto Beans with Chipotle Sour CreamWednesday: Oven-Fried Tilapia and Cheesy Polenta and Warm Spinach SaladThursday: Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers and Parsley OrzoFriday: Bruschetta Burgers and Garlic-and-Herb Oven FriesSnack Bonus: Cranberry-Pistachio Energy Bars
Monday: Kick off Meatless Monday with Butternut Squash Pizza with White Sauce, Spinach, and Goat Cheese. Pre-cut butternut squash and a pre-baked pizza crust cut prep-time significantly, so you can serve this chilly-weather pizza quick. Goat cheese is delicious, but feel free to sub in feta if that’s what’s in your refrigerator. And, if you have it, a small drizzle of balsamic glaze on top of the pizza would be heavenly. On the side, we suggest a simple green salad with a citrus-based vinaigrette.
Tuesday: Few ingredients, big flavors—that’s why we love Lemon-Pepper Flank Steak Tacos. Plus, you can probably find everything in your pantry. And with less calories, fat, and sodium, and more flavor than flour tortillas, corn tortillas are our vessel of choice for taco fillings. Pair with Pinto Beans with Chipotle Sour Cream and try these simple swaps (per reader suggestions)—use lime juice instead of lemon juice and cilantro instead of parsley.
Wednesday: Oven-Fried Tilapia and Cheesy Polenta saves big on calories and fat using a simple trick—toasting the panko ahead of time with spices allows it to pick up flavor before it coats the fish. If you can’t find tilapia, substitute the freshest mild-flavored white fish you can find, such as flounder or sole. Because the polenta requires close attention, we recommend making it while the fish cooks. Warm Spinach Salad completes the meal and adds color to the plate.
Thursday: Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers is a reader favorite recipe—make it and you’ll know why. The magic in this dish comes from the topping. Reduced balsamic vinegar and chicken stock combined with sautéed bell peppers, shallots, and chopped rosemary adds brightness and balance to baked chicken breasts. If you want, double the bell pepper topping, save half, and mix with penne or rotini pasta or spoon over sliced turkey in a sandwich for a quick next-day lunch. Speaking of which—on the side, choose a starch such as Parsley Orzo to soak up all of that balsamic-infused goodness.
Friday: We transform the classic cheeseburger and French fry combo into a guilt-free indulgence with Bruschetta Burgers and Garlic-Herb Oven Fries. While leftover bell pepper topping from last night’s meal would certainly be delicious on these burgers, we love the super-simple bruschetta-inspired mixture of chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil. Choose good quality tomatoes, since they aren’t in season—Romas or Beefsteaks are reliable year-round options. For the fries, use your extra rosemary in place of parsley.
Snack Bonus: We loaded Cranberry-Pistachio Energy Bars with all of the good stuff—oats, quinoa, dried cranberries, pistachios, flaxseed meal, and almond butter. And just to make things interesting, we threw in a touch of bittersweet chocolate. Make these over the weekend and enjoy throughout the week.