Sunday Strategist: A Week of Healthy Menus — October 14-18
Here, another week’s worth of fast, healthy, and tasty menus. It’s not a dislike 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.
The PlanMonday: Spiced Lentils and Poached Eggs, Cumin-Scented CarrotsTuesday: Blue Cheese–Stuffed Pork Chops with PearsWednesday: Chicken GumboThursday: Serrano, Manchego, and Apple Sandwiches, Creamy Ranch-Style DipFriday: Chili-Corn Chip PieBonus Dessert: Popcorn Balls
Fall is my favorite time of the year: cool running weather, college football, cozy sweaters, and cowboy boots, plus all of the wonderful autumn fruits and vegetables. This week’s menus feature dishes with robust flavors and ingredients I’ve been waiting all summer long to make.
Monday: Spiced Lentils and Poached Eggs served with Cumin-Scented Carrots is a colorful plate of food and an equally satisfying meatless meal. Eggs are enjoying a revival in the culinary world—and not just for breakfast. They’re no longer seen as a cholesterol-raising culprit (an egg a day is OK for most people). Here, their economical nutrient package combines with lentils, another budget-conscious ingredient. Look for red lentils in the rice and grains aisle of the supermarket. Curry powder, cumin, and red pepper amp up the flavor. For perfectly poached eggs, try this method: First, break each egg into a custard cup to avoid pouring a broken egg yolk into the pan of water. Second, add vinegar to the simmering water. The acid helps the protein in the white part set faster, which gives it an attractive shape. While the lentils simmer, preheat the oven to roast the carrots. Roasting is ideal for carrots and other dense vegetables such as potatoes, beets, and winter squash—it concentrates their natural sugars, and the dry oven heat browns them beautifully.
Tuesday: Blue Cheese–Stuffed Pork Chops with Pears has only five ingredients. Ripe pears are wonderfully juicy eaten out of hand, but their honey sweetness is a nice foil for blue cheese in this quick meal. Serve with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts: Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and arrange on a jelly-roll pan; bake at 425° for 15 minutes.
Wednesday: What is fall without the aroma of a pot of soup simmering in the kitchen? Our Chicken Gumbo develops that stick-to-your-ribs flavor in a fraction of the time. Our secret to a superfast, homemade stock: Sauté bone-in chicken breasts (much more flavorful than boneless any way you cook them). The browned bits in the bottom of the pan from cooking the chicken add wonderful richness to the broth. Drop a bay leaf into the cooking water for the rice for more flavor without added salt or fat.
Thursday: You’ve gotten over hump day, and Thursday rolls around. Ever say to yourself, “I just don’t feel like cooking tonight.” Making a sandwich is an easy option, but do you yawn at the thought of another ham and cheese? Serrano, Manchego, and Apple Sandwiches takes your basic ham and cheese up a notch with some easy ingredient swaps: salty serrano ham or prosciutto for deli ham, nutty Manchego cheese for Swiss, and peppery arugula for lettuce leaves. For a little sweetness and crunch, add paper-thin slices of a crisp fall apple. Discover some of the heirloom varieties in your supermarket produce section or a fall farmers’ market. Serve the sandwiches with Creamy Ranch-Style Dip and fresh veggies such as baby carrots and broccoli florets. Double the dip recipe—it’s good to keep on hand for snacks and packs well in your lunch for nibbling on at work. No cook, no problem.
Friday: Chili-Corn Chip Pie is a healthy version of the famous Frito pie. You might recognize this popular dish that’s sold at sporting events, state fairs, and festivals. It’s always a crowd-pleaser—a cross between chili, sloppy Joes, and tacos—with hearty spices, ground beef, chunky tomato sauce, and corn chips. It’s also great for families with different schedules. Cook up the chili mixture, keep warm on the stovetop or transfer to a slow cooker, and let everyone serve themselves. It has a bit of a kick to it, but not enough to turn away a spice-phobic person like me. If you like your food extra-spicy, I would recommend doubling all the spices in the dish. It's even better the next day.
Bonus sweet treat: With Halloween just around the corner, Popcorn Balls are even more fun to make if you have kids who want to help. With added peanuts, pretzels, and a honey-nut oat cereal, they’re a healthier snack and not as sticky-sweet as the popcorn balls from your childhood. But your kids don’t need to know that. They’ll just love the taste.